As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, Israel and the Palestinians are working to curb the spread of COVID-19 among their populations.
■ 16,717 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 279 people have died. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 554 people tested positive; two people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 55 people were diagnosed, 16 of whom recovered, and one person has died.
8.30 P.M. Theaters and cultural venues to reopen June 14
The Health Ministry announced on Sunday that performances in theaters and other venues will be permitted starting June 14, subject to restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Under the outline formulated by the Health Ministry and the Culture Ministry, up to 75 percent of seats in a venue will be able to be filled, with sufficient distance maintained between patrons. Temperatures will be taken at the entrance to venues and audience members will have to wear masks. However, if 75 percent of the venue’s seating comes to more than 500 people, a special permit will be required from the Culture Ministry.
Tickets will also only be sold online, and those who order tickets together will be allowed to sit together. Between each such group there will need to be at least one empty seat, and there will be no intermission during performances.
Also, starting May 27, more people will be allowed into museums – one person for every seven square meters will be permitted to enter, up from 15 square meters as is currently the case.
"This is a very significant step that we achieved after much effort, together with other officials. It’s the first and most important step toward resolving the crisis. I am committed to continuing the effort to return the cultural world to routine,” said Culture Minister Chili Tropper, who announced the guidelines with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.
The Israel Culture and Arts Forum said that the outline “allows culture and art lovers to return to the halls and museums in a safe manner, on the one hand, while conducting artistic activity at a high level on the other. But we must remember that along with formulating the successful operating guidelines, the economic plan must be urgently completed to help cultural institutions that were critically undermined by the coronavirus crisis.” (Ido Efrati, Nirit Anderman, Almog Ben Zikri and Noa Shpigel)
7:30 P.M. Israel confirms only 5 new cases in 24 hours
According to Israel's Health Ministry, only 5 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 16,717.
The number of active cases stands at 2,285 – a reduction of 58 cases since Saturday. The overwhelming majority of patients are suffering from mild symptoms. (Haaretz)
7:00 P.M. Netanyahu meets Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, lauds shipment of medical supplies
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Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and thanked him for accepting to lead the joint procurement command center for the coronavirus response, ahead of its transfer to the Health Ministry on Tuesday. Netanyahu praised the command center's achievements in securing medical equipment and vital protective gear during the crisis. "First of all, I would like to thank you. Yossi, I assigned you, along with the Defense Ministry, to deal with procurement and acquisition. You did this exceptionally well; the results speak for themselves,” Netanyahu said. (Haaretz)
4:45 A.M. Israeli hospital announces closure of coronavirus ward
An Israeli hospital has announced it has discharged its last coronavirus patient and, as a result, it is shutting down its coronavirus ward. Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Tiberias, northern Israel, said its last patient received a warm farewell as he left the building with a round of applause. “Thomas, a foreign worker from Eritrea, was discharged in good state on Sunday, May 24, and after nearly two months and a half since the special ward was opened, it was decided to shut it down until further notice,” the hospital statement read. (Noa Shpigel)
10:40 A.M. Jerusalem's Holy Sepulcher reopens after coronavirus closure
Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher reopened to visitors on Sunday after a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The church, situated in Jerusalem's Old City, is the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, entombed, and resurrected. The Christian authorities managing the site closed it to visitors in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but clerics maintained prayers inside the shuttered church throughout its closure.
On Sunday, church authorities limited entrance to 50 people at a time, and required that those entering the cavernous site maintain social distance and avoid touching any of the church’s stones, icons or other religious items. A typical day before the virus outbreak would bring thousands of faithful who kissed or placed their hands along the church's surfaces. (The Associated Press)
8:30 P.M. Number of cases in Israel rises to 16,712
The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 16,712, of which 2,343 are active cases. The death toll remains at 279. The number of people on ventilators remains at 36. There were 5,010 tests conducted yesterday. (Haaretz)
8:20 P.M. Two hurt in West Bank clashes as shops closed for holiday
Clashes erupted in Bethlehem between Palestinian youth affiliated with the Fatah’s military wing and Palestinian Authority security forces, amid criticism of the government's decision to shutter shops for the Eid al-Adha holiday, which starts on Sunday. A police officer and a militia member were wounded. (Jack Khoury)
4:35 P.M. Gaza announces first coronavirus death
The Gaza Health Ministry has announced the first death from coronavirus in the enclave, a 77-year-old woman who suffered from chronic illnesses and who had been in isolation at a facility near the Rafah border crossing. The ministry said the woman had traveled to Gaza through Egypt on May 19 and had been in isolation since then as a precaution. Twenty-nine people have been diagnosed in Gaza after returning through the Rafah or Erez border crossing over the past week. (Jack Khoury)
1:05 P.M. Elderly woman diagnosed with coronavirus in Israeli nursing home; visits suspended
An elderly woman residing in the Mishan nursing home in Be’er Sheva was diagnosed overnight Friday with the coronavirus, and was admitted to Soroka Medical Center in the southern city.
Since the virus erupted in Israel, 14 elderly people from the same ward in Mishan have died from COVID-19, but no new cases were diagnosed there since early April.
The nursing home requested the Health Ministry to perform coronavirus tests on all its tenants and personnel, adding that Mishan is suspending all visits to the ward until test results are in “to ensure the wellbeing of the tenants and their families.
“We will continue looking after the tenants in the ward while implementing a strict policy of social distancing and protection, regardless of the test results.” (Almog Ben Zikri)
10:44 A.M. Iran to reopen religious, cultural sites on Sunday
Iran on Saturday moved to open businesses, religious and cultural sites as it eases restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Museums and historical sites are to reopen on Sunday to coincide with the Eid el-Fitr celebrations that end the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, President Hassan Rohani said on state television.
Holy shrines - some of which became focal points of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran - will reopen Monday.
Rohani had said last week that the shrines would open for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. Some areas of the shrines such as narrow corridors will stay shut.
All workers in the country will return to work next Saturday.
"We can say we have passed the three stages regarding the coronavirus," Rouhani said.
The fourth phase is containment in 10 of Iran's 31 provinces, where the situation is better and screening will intensify while infected patients will be separated from the rest of the population.
The president said last week that restaurants would reopen after Ramadan and sports activities would resume without spectators. Universities, but not medical schools, will reopen on June 6.
Rohani said on Saturday that 88 percent of the fatalities from COVID-19 in Iran were victims with underlying illnesses.
According to health ministry figures, more than 7,000 have so far died from the pandemic in Iran and more than 130,000 have been infected. (Reuters)
10:15 A.M. Education Ministry orders wearing masks at school for older kids
The Education Ministry released new orders on mandatory mask wearing amid students' return to schools. Students in the second grade and up must wear masks outside the class and during breaks, while students in the fourth grade and up must wear masks inside the class and can only take it off in the case that two meter distance separates each student. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
7:45 P.M. Israel's active coronavirus cases continue to drop
Israel has so far confirmed 16,683 coronavirus cases, out of which 2,680 cases are still active after 13,724 people have recovered.
The death toll stands at 279, while 36 patients are on ventilators.
The Health Ministry said that 5,969 coronavirus tests were carried out as of Thursday evening. (Haaretz)
6:15 P.M. Health Ministery to ease more coronavirus restrictions
Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is continuing to ease coronavirus restrictions. After assessing the current situation with senior executives, he instructed the Director General of the Health Ministry Moshe Bar Siman Tov to sign an order permitting gatherings of up to 50 people, even in closed buildings, with 2 meters of distance between each and while wearing masks.
Additionally, It will also be possible to not wear a mask at the workplace with a 1.20 meter distance between each employee, compared with the 1.50 distance order so far.
Assessing the situation also increased the need to prepare for a second wave of the coronavirus. Edelstein said at the meeting: "We are in a 'time to open' but should not go into complacency. I reiterate - the continued opening of the economy in accordance with the Health Ministry's plan depends mainly on our adherence to the rules of the Ministry. Without the cooperation of Israeli citizens, the coronavirus may intensify and the economy may close again." (Haaretz)
6:00 P.M. Gaza authorities consider full closure on Eid al-Fitr in light of renewed outbreak
Hamas authorities in Gaza announced that as of Thursday, the Rafah and Erez crossings will be closed due to the new outbreak of coronavirus cases in the Strip.
In addition, it was decided to put another 2000 Gazans into isolation for fear of having been in contact with patients who had been diagnosed in recent days.
A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, Khalil Alhiya, explained that the increase in the number of patients in the Gaza Strip poses a real threat and this requires taking measures to prevent further spread of the virus.
He said the Gaza authorities are investigating the possibility of imposing a complete closure on holiday days (Eid al-Fitr) throughout the Gaza Strip, and the decision will be made by the end of the week when the results of the tests are received. (Jack Khoury)
5:00 P.M. 29 new coronavirus cases found in Gaza, raising fears of renewed outbreak
Twenty-nine new cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in the Gaza Strip among Palestinians returning in recent days from the Rafah and Erez crossings, who have been placed in isolation since.
The number of patients in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the crisis has now risen to 49, of which 16 have recovered.
This is the largest number diagnosed in the Strip since the beginning of the crisis. The Gaza Health Ministry is awaiting the results of hundreds of additional tests done over the past two days.
According to Health officials, the patients had come in contact with dozens of people staying in isolation centers. Health officials in Gaza are now investigating whether there was contact between the patients and people outside the isolation facilities, which would indicate a greater number of cases.
The Gaza Health Ministry announced high alert following the new cases found today. (Jack Khoury)
2:44 P.M. Seven more Palestinians test positive in Gaza, raising toll to 30
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that seven more people were diagnosed with the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, raising the toll there to 30. Out of these, 16 have so far recovered.
The seven new cases are individuals who returned to the coastal enclave through the Rafah crossing and have entered quarantine. (Jack Khoury)
8:21 P.M. Number of active coronavirus case in Israel drops under 3,000
Israel has so far confirmed 16,665 coronavirus cases, out of which 2,812 cases are still active after 13,574 people have recovered.
One more person has died from the virus, bringing death toll to 279, while 40 patients are on ventilators.
The Health Ministry said that 6,938 coronavirus tests were carried out Tuesday. (Haaretz)
11:00 P.M. Israel permits reopening houses of worship with restrictions
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the reopening of houses of worship Tuesday night after consulting with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Maj. Gen. Meir Ben-Shabbat and other parties.
The order will go into effect Wednesday, and prayer will be restricted to up to 50 people in the space, keeping a distance of 2 meters between the worshipers. Each house of worship must assign a coronavirus trustee to enforce restrictions and safety measures, and masks will be mandatory and worshipers must adhere to hygiene rules. (Noa Landau)
8:30 P.M. Health Ministry data show another drop in active coronavirus cases in Israel
Latest figures released by the Health Ministry show the total number of active coronavirus cases in Israel has dropped again from 3,074 on Tuesday morning to 2,946. Meanwhile, the total number of cases since the beginning of the crisis has grown by 9 new patients to 16,659. 50 patients are in serious condition, 38 of them on ventilators. One more patient has died bringing the total number of Israeli coronavirus fatalities to 278. (Haaretz)
6:30 P.M. Gaza Health Ministry announces 3 more coronavirus cases
The Health Ministry in Gaza said three people who recently returned to the Strip were found to be positive for the coronavirus. The statement specified they entered Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt and noted they were placed in isolation facilities as per the local regulations. The three patients – one in his 70s, one in his 40s, and one 19-year-old, are all in good condition. The cases bring the total number of Palestinians infected with the virus in Gaza since the beginning of the crisis to 23. However, 16 have recovered, and the active cases as of Tuesday are therefore only seven. (Jack Khoury)
2:10 P.M. Ex-health minister says was not involved in policy-making
Former Health Minister Yaakov Litzman did not fully participate in the decision-making process concerning the coronavirus outbreak, he told Kan Bet radio in an interview on Tuesday morning.
“Here and there they updated me,” said Litzman when asked if the professional staff in his ministry were the ones who made recommendations to fight the pandemic, which they then took to the National Security Council and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Haaretz)
2:08 P.M. Transportation Ministry announces public transport in school rush hour to resume
In her first decision as transportation minister, Likud lawmaker Miri Regev said public transport would resume at full capacity between 7:00 A.M. and 8:30 A.M., and between 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M., specifically to allow students to go to and from school. (Haaretz)
2:04 P.M. Residents of south Tel Aviv neighborhood told to stay home after family tests positive
After six members of one family were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Neve Ofer neighborhood of Tel Aviv, a testing station was opened there in order to test as many residents as possible. At this time, 115 have been tested, with resuts to come tomorrow. (Bar Peleg)
1:08 P.M. Al-Aqsa Mosque to reopen next week
Ziad Abu Moch, the head of the Interior Ministry's Islamic Administration, announced that after talks, they have decided to reopen the Al-Aqsa Mosque on May 27.
12:55 P.M. Israel to allow restaurants and clubs to reopen on May 27
Restaurants, bars and clubs will be allowed to reopen on May 27, after discussions between the restaurant association and the Health and Finance Ministries.
Restaurant owners have been pushing to reopen the embattled sector.
Owners of these establishments will be responsible for taking the temperature of each customer. Venues hosting up to 100 patrons will be able to resume at full occupancy, while bigger places will have to restrict attendance to 85%. A mandatory distance of one meter between tables will have to be respected in outdoor seating areas.
Clubs will only be able to play recorded music; live performances remains restricted.
Last week, Deputy Health Minister Director Prof. Itamar Groto and public health chief Prof. Sigal Sudetzky visited chef Haim Cohen's Yaffo Tel Aviv restaurant to meet with restaurant union head Shai Berman, who presented them with a plan for completely reopening restaurants.
Restaurants, bars and clubs were low on the list of the Health Ministry's priorities for reopening, and were to open on June 15. The Finance Ministry was pushing for them to reopen on May 31.
Several other steps are still under discussion. (Ido Efrati)
11:00 A.M. One dies, seven more test positive for coronavirus in Israel
Latest figures released by the Health Ministry show the total number of cases has reached 16,650, with 3,074 of those currently active and 13,299 recovered. 51 patients are in serious condition, 39 of them on ventilators.
One patient has died since Monday evening, bringing the total number of Israeli coronavirus deaths to 277.
1:06 A.M. Health Ministry rescinds order to wear masks in public spaces, schools amid extreme heat wave
Newly appointed Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced that due to soaring temperatures, wearing masks in open areas or classrooms without air conditioning is not mandatory, as long as people don’t congregate.
On Sunday, the Health Ministry rejected the Education Ministry’s request to allow students not to wear masks amid the extreme heat wave across the country. That decision sparked resistance among students, parents and doctors. (Haaretz)
11:29 P.M. Despite extreme heat wave, Health Ministry refuses to exempt Israeli students from wearing masks in school
The Health Ministry rejected a request submitted by the Education Ministry to allow students not to wear masks in classrooms amid the extreme heat wave throughout the country.
The Health Ministry, however, said that students who are studying in classrooms without air conditioning are allowed not to wear masks.
Earlier on Sunday, the Israel Pediatric Association called on the ministry to exempt school children from the obligation to wear masks in school until the heat wave ends, claiming that the order is “impractical and extremely difficult to implement” under current weather conditions. (Ronny Linder and Lior Dattel)
11:14 P.M. Iraq faces full local lockdowns as virus cases jump
Iraq will impose a complete lockdown on some areas of the capital, the country's new health minister said on Monday, amid an uptick in coronavirus cases in recent weeks since curfew hours were relaxed.
The new government under Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was sworn into power just two weeks ago following a five-month leadership vacuum. Responding to the pandemic and a severe economic crisis brought on by falling oil prices is foremost on its agenda.
Areas of Baghdad believed to play a role in spreading the virus will face a full lockdown as of Wednesday for a period of two weeks, Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi said in a statement. (The Associated Press)
9:20 P.M. Some school in Israel to remain closed
Several cities announced they will not reopen schools for grades 4 through 10 on Tuesday because the extreme heat wave will make it difficult for students to wear face masks. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
8:30 P.M. Three people die in Israel; no surge in new cases
Three more people died from COVID-19 in Israel, raising the toll to 276. The count of new cases continues to be low, with 22 people diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total to 16,643, 20 percent of which are still active.
More than 4,500 people were tested on Sunday, and 251 were announced as fully recovered, according to the health ministry.
7:20 P.M. Students struggling to wear masks in hot weather
Education Ministry Director General Shmuel Abuav called on the Health Ministry to allow students to not wear masks on extremely hot days. In a letter to his counterpart at the Health Ministry, he said the order to wear masks at schools at all times is one “the students cannot uphold.” (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
7:12 P.M. Palestinians report new cases after days of zero new cases
The Palestinian Authority ramped up testing in the village of Beit Ula near Hebron after five people there tested positive for the coronavirus. These are the first positive diagnoses after days of no new cases in the West Bank or Gaza.
Palestinian Health Minister May al-Kaila said the new cases involve a woman, three minors and a baby who were infected after coming in close contact with a worker who had recently returned from Israel. Palestinian laborers working in Israel have been identified as a potential source of contagion, and in the next week authorities prepare to tests 35,000 workers who will return to the West Bank for Eid al-Fitr.
Furthermore, there will be a total curfew during the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, from May 22 to May 25. (Jack Khoury)
5:45 P.M. Just five active coronavirus cases in Gaza
The Gaza Health Ministry said that there are five active cases of COVID-19 in Gaza, after 16 patients successfully recovered and none died. (Jack Khoury)
12:25 P.M. Residents of south Tel Aviv neighborhood told not to leave homes after coronavirus cases diagnosed
Tel Aviv's municipality has instructed residents in the south Tel Aviv neighborhood of Neve Ofer to stay in their homes after five members of a family living there were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Two schools were also closed. The city disinfected several areas in the neighborhood and asked the Health Ministry to boost testing there. (Bar Peleg)
12:00 P.M. N.Y. Synagogues may hold Shavuot services
Synagogues in upstate New York may be able to hold small services for next week's Shavuot holiday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at his daily COVID-19 briefing on Sunday.
“If we can circumscribe a ceremony with 14,15 people social distanced with safeguards, can we find a way to do a ceremony, a religious ceremony, or a ceremony that honors Memorial Day? I think we can,” the governor said, after a Jewish reporter asked. A definitive answer will come in the next day or two, Cuomo added.
Sunday marked the 78th day since New York State was put “on pause”. While upstate New York is beginning the first phase of reopening – for construction and manufacturing – downstate New York, including New York City remains closed. (Haaretz)
11:45 A.M. Tel Aviv Municipality says contact tracing conducted after five family members test positive
The Tel Aviv Municipality says the Health Ministry has conducted contact tracing and contacted relevant parties after five members of a family were diagnosed with the virus on Thursday. The city said it had assembled a team to handle the incident and that it had appealed to the Health Ministry with a request for further testing in the neighborhood. (Bar Peleg)
11:05 A.M. Number of cases in Israel at 16,621, no new deaths
The number of coronavirus cases in Israel stands at 16,621, with 47 people on ventilators and 3,335 active cases. The number of deaths remains at 272. There were 4,344 tests conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)
11:00 A.M. Five members of Tel Aviv family diagnosed
Five members of a family living in the south Tel Aviv neighborhood of Neve Ofer has tested positive for the coronavirus, after according to a source, seeking to be tested for about a week. According to the source, members of the family complained of losing their sense of taste last week, but were not immediately tested because they had no other symptoms. At least one of the children in the family went to school this week, said the source. (Bar Peleg)
10:45 A.M. 70% of chains of infection in Israel originated in U.S., researchers say
Mapping of the coronavirus genome in Israel has allowed researchers at Tel Aviv University to track the virus' spread from abroad to Israel and between locations inside the country. The analysis shows that some 70 percent of the chains of infection in Israel originated in the U.S. Most of the remaining 30 percent originated mostly in Europe – Belgium (about 8%), France (6%), the U.K. (5%), Spain (3%), and Italy (2%). Australia, the Philippines, and Russia were each the point of origin for 2% of the chains of infection. (Ido Efrati)
8:20 A.M. Second staff member at Rehovot school tests positive
A staff member at a school in Rehovot has tested positive for COVID-19, after it was announced on Friday that an educator at the same school had the virus. The class of 35 children that she taught will be required to self-isolate at home until May 28. Following the discovery on Friday of a positive case at the school, all members of the teaching staff were tested on Sunday. Tests for the two classes that have been required to self-isolate will be conducted today and tomorrow.
Israeli children in all grades went back to school on Sunday. Students are required to wear a mask while in the classroom and maintain a two-meter distance from one another during the entire school day. The decision to resume studies comes as Israel’s coronavirus infection rate keeps dropping. Some locales, however, delayed the opening of schools by a day for logistical reasons. (Haaretz)
10:47 P.M. Former Health Minister Yaakov Litzman says there was too much panic over coronavirus
Former Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said on Sunday that he thought there had been too much of a panic over the coronavirus outbreak in Israel.
"As soon as my director general said he was afraid that ten thousand will die, I shouted at a government meeting that I disagree and that it's an exaggeration," Litzman told an interviewer on Israeli public radio.
"The prime minister accepted this exaggeration, and he responded to the director general's fears, and I cannot make much claims against him as the situation is excellent, we cry for every soul we lost, but all in all [it was] 250," he added.
So far, 272 people have died from the coronavirus in Israel.
Yaakov Litzman was sworn in Housing and Construction minister in Israel's new government on Sunday, despite facing backlash over his handling of the coronavirus crisis. (Haaretz)
7:47 P.M. Ten more cases confirmed, one person dies, as active cases keep dropping
The Health Ministry confirmed ten more people had been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the last update on Sunday morning, bringing the total number of cases to 16,617.
One person has died, bringing the total to 272.
The number of active cases dropped to 3,403, with 55 patients in in serious condition and 44 on ventilators. (Haaretz)
4:43 P.M. Israeli executive draws up guidelines to reopen synagogues
Officials from Israel's National Security Council, Health Ministry and a representative of Interior Minister Arye Dery have agreed on terms to reopen prayer houses and synagogues.
Worshippers will be required to sit one seat apart, wear masks throughout, and bring prayer materials from home. A coronavirus gabbai, or warden, will be designated in each synagogue to ensure rules are respected. (Noa Landau)
2:40 P.M. Attendance exceeds 70 percent as Israeli schools reopen
The Education Ministry said that some 74 percent of Israel’s enrolled students in grades first through twelve attended schools as Israel reopened its education system on Sunday.
Education Ministry Director General Shmuel Abuhav said that the return to school will be gradual and at the discretion of the parents. Abuhav added that the growing attendance rate testifies to the trust parents have in the education system and its employees. (Haaretz)
12:30 P.M. Number of coronavirus confirmed cases drops to 16,607, Health Ministry says
The Health Ministry said that the number of coronavirus cases in Israel stands at 16,607, one down from the date reported on Saturday.
Over the past day, 1,517 coronavirus tests were performed. So far, 12,884 Israelis have recovered, bringing active cases down to 3,452.
As of Sunday, 271 people have died from the disease, and 48 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)
8:30 A.M. Israel reopens schools as coronavirus infection rate remains low
Israeli children in all grades went back to school on Sunday. Students are required to wear a mask while in the classroom and maintain a two-meter distance from one another during the entire school day.
The decision to resume studies comes as Israel’s coronavirus infection rate keeps dropping.
Some regional councils, however, delayed the opening of schools by a day amid logistical reasons. (Haaretz)