COVID-19

Israel's Plan for Partial Reopening of Schools Bashed by Local Leaders as Unrealistic

Students would go to school only on some days ■ Hundreds gather for holiday bonfires despite restrictions ■ Confirmed cases keep decreasing ■ Live updates

new-hdc-logo
Haaretz
Share in Facebook
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Students wearing protective masks at a school in central Israel, May 5, 2020.
Students wearing protective masks at a school in central Israel, May 5, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod
new-hdc-logo
Haaretz

This story is no longer being updated. Follow live updates here.

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.

■ 16,506 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 258 people have died. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 547 people tested positive; two people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 20 people were diagnosed, 14 of which recovered. 

■ The Israeli government approved a series of steps to ease the lockdown restrictions, including allowing group prayer, partial reopening of the economy and stores, and fines for not wearing masks in public. Some coronavirus wards started closing as cases decline.

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

8:15 A.M. Police encounter violence breaking up illicit Lag B'Omer bonfires overnight

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews participated in bonfire lighting for the Lag B'Omer holiday on Monday night in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, in defiance of government orders that sought to prevent gatherings amid the country's coronavirus outbreak. Police said they broke up the central gathering in Mea Shearim, where as many as 1,000 people may have been present. There were smaller gatherings in other locations, including Modi'in Illit and Bnei Brak. Police said law enforcement arriving at a bonfire in Modi'in Illit encountered stone throwing, and that one person was arrested. Four people were detained for questioning in Bnei Brak on suspicion of rioting.  (Aaron Rabinowitz and Noa Landau)

MONDAY

10:45 P.M. Local gov't official wants full return to school

Haim Bivas, chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, said in a letter to council chiefs that the government’s plan to partially reopen schools is “detached from reality.” According to Bivas, “it cannot be that students come for [only] a day or two a week. Either reopen the entire education system or don’t do it at all.”

He called on local councils across Israel to “exert all the necessary pressure to ensure all children and all parents can go back to normal immediately.” (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

>> Click here to read the full report

9:30 P.M Hundreds light Lag Ba'omer bonfires despite restrictions

Hundreds of people in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim celebrated the holiday of Lag Ba'omer by lighting bonfires, in violation of the emergency regulation banning the Jewish holiday custom to prevent gatherings that could spread the coronavirus. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:27 P.M. Five more people in Israel die from coronavirus

Five people died of COVID-19 in Israel on Monday, raising the total number of deaths to 258. Thirty people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 16,506.

There are currently 4,406 active patients, 66 of them in serious condition; out of these, 58 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

8:33 P.M. Education Ministry sets out plan for partial reopening of all schools

Middle schools in Israel will open this Sunday with students attending two to three days a week, while tenth grade will reopen in a similar format.

Students will go to school three days a week if the middle school isn’t part of a high school, but only two days a week if it is part of a high school.

No more than 20 students will be allowed in each class, and they will have to wear masks and maintain a distance of two meters from each other. In total, there will be a maximum of 60 students in a school each day. (Shira Kadadri-Ovadia)

>> Click here to read the full report

2:00 P.M. Education Ministry announces plan for return of secondary and high schools

The Education Ministry announced to school administrators, principals and education departments its outline for the return to schools for fourth through tenth grades, scheduled for this coming Sunday. 

According to the plan, each class in grades four through six will have one study day per week, with first through third grades continuing to study in the current format. Seventh to tenths graders will study in schools for two school days a week and will study remotely for rest of the week. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

12:00 P.M. No new coronavirus cases in West Bank and Gaza for fourth day in a row

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said Monday morning that in addition to having no new coronavirus cases in the West Bank and Gaza for the fourth consecutive day, 16 coronavirus patients had recovered within the last day after receiving their test results.

The Palestinian Health Ministry further noted that Salfit district in the center of the West Bank is already free of coronavirus patients and joins another five districts that are now defined as clean: Bethlehem, Jericho, the Jordan Valley, Qalqiliya and Jenin.

As of today, in the PA and the Gaza Strip, 547 cases were diagnosed, of which 367 recovered raising the percentage of recoveries to 67 percent.

According to the infection map, the Jerusalem area still has the highest number of patients 121, Ramallah and Al-Bireh13, Hebron 33, Nablus 2, Tulkarm 1, and in the Gaza Strip 6 patients remain active out of the 20 identified since the beginning of the crisis. (Jack Khoury)

11:45 A.M. Finance Ministry calls to fully reopen preschools in areas with low infection rate

Finance Ministry Director General Shai Babad sent a letter to his counterpart in the Health Ministry in which he urges to reopen preschools fully on Sunday in areas with a low coronavius infection rate. 

In a letter sent Sunday, Babad points out that the proposal is in line with the local government center, which has confirmed that these authorities are ready for an immediate and full opening of the education system. A household with preschool-aged children loses 2.5 working days a week - resulting in a loss of 3.2 billion shekels ($ 907.3 million) a month per household.

Representatives of the Education Ministry, Health Ministry and the National Security Council will meet on Monday in an attempt to reach consensus on increasing the number of children in each group in preschools. The Education Ministry strives to increase the number of children in each group to 20. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

11:30 A.M. Israel's fertility clinics reopen 

The Health Ministry announced the reopening of fertility clinics  following the decline in coronavirus cases after a two-month hiatus.

According to the new regulations, IVF can now be performed for all healthy women, with patients over 30 being prioritized; Women with background illness will need to be examined and approved for treatment by a specialized at risk pregnancy clinic.

The Health Ministry says that if no exceptional cases arise, fertility treatments will operate normally and return to full activity within three months.

The ministry also instructed clinic managers to appoint a "corona trustee" to oversee operations and to enforce social distancing regulations to prevent the spread of the virus.

Women will have to undergo a coronavirus test before extracting eggs, and men before transferring semen to the lab. 

As for women with background illnesses, the ministry has suggested that anyone with hypertension, diabetes, chronic lung disease, clotting, immune or cardiac disorders - will need to undergo screening and get permission to perform the fertilization from an at-risk pregnancy clinic. (Haaretz)

11:00 A.M. Israel's rate of infections continues to slow, total stands at 16,492

Israel's Health Ministry said seven more people tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday morning, bringing the total number of cases to 16,492.

The total death toll stands at 254. There are currently 4,690 active patients, 73 of them in serious condition; out of these, 64 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

7:45 A.M. Israel stops mandatory hotel isolation for those who can isolate at home, returning from abroad 

In accordance with Israel's updated coronavirus emergency regulations, as of Monday morning, people being isolated in hotels will be released if they meet the Health Ministry's criteria for home isolation. additionally, those returning from abroad will be required to self-isolate at home starting Monday.

Those returning from abroad who are unable to maintain home isolation under the Health Ministry's guidelines will be transferred to one of the "quarantine hotels" that will continue to operate, announced the IDF spokesman. 

So far, there have been 5,534 isolated or sick people put in the hotels, of whom 3,134 already returned to their homes. (Haaretz)

MONDAY

10:40 P.M. People coming from abroad no longer required to quarantine at state-run facilities

The government approved a proposal to change quarantine orders for those returning from abroad, so that they can self-quarantine at home, rather than in state-run facilities.

The government also approved entry to parks and using exercise equipment in them. However, the use of playgound equipment is still not allowed. (Noa Landau)

10:35 P.M. Share of Israeli jobless receiving benefits doubles to 12 percent amid coronavirus crisis

The share of people filing for unemployment benefits who actually lost their jobs, rather than being put on unpaid leave, surged in April to 12 percent from 6.3 percent the month before, the Israeli Employment Service said Sunday.

The number of those filing for benefits grew by 177,400 last month, down from an increase of 850,500 in March, but much higher than the pre-coronavirus numbers of 23,800 in January and 25,800 in February. (Sivan Klingbail)

>> Click here to read the full report

9:33 P.M. Israel set to approve $230m virus loan to the PA 

Israel will approve an 800 million shekel (about $230 million) payment to the Palestinian Authority Sunday evening to help it cope with the coronavirus, Finance Ministry officials confirmed Sunday.

Government sources say the payment is an advance on the tax revenue Israel collects on the PA’s behalf. Under the agreement that is slated to be signed with the PA Sunday evening, the money will be transferred in four monthly installments. The first installment will be delivered at the end of this month. 

Last week, in response to petitions against the transfer by two organizations, the state told the High Court of Justice that it planned to send the money as soon as possible, since the PA’s income has fallen drastically due to the virus. (Noa Landau)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:39 P.M. Goverment plans economic help for released soldiers

The government plans to give soldiers who have been released from the IDF in the past year and have entered the workforce soldiers a grant of up to 4,000 shekels.

In addition, as part of the addition to the economic plan that will be introduced in the coming days, subject to amendment of the law, released soldiers will be able to withdraw some of the military deposit money, which they receive after completing their service, for any purpose. Under normal circumstances, the deposit fund is limited to the first 5 years after release and is intended to be used for specific purposes only. (Noa Landau)

8:31 P.M. Government may remove most restrictions on commerce in Arab communities

Interior Minister Arye Dery informed Israeli Arab leaders that the government is set to approve the removal of most restrictions on commerce in Arab communities, in place since the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. According to a statement released by Dery, pending government approval later on Sunday, all stores in Arab communities across Israel could reopen, except for cafes and restaurants. (Jack Khoury)

8:12 P.M. Rise in coronavirus cases remains slow

16,477 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Israel,  according to the Health Ministry. In the last day, 23 people were diagnosed with the virus and 54 recovered 74 of those people are in a serious condition and 65 are on ventilators. 4 more people have died from the virus since this morning, bringing the death toll to 252. (Haaretz)

7:07 P.M. Local Arab authorities petition High Court, saying temporary amendment to law discriminatory

Local Arab authorities have petitioned for the High Court against the Prime Minister, the Interior Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Environment Ministry and the Local Government Center. In a petition filed by Attorney Sawsan Zaher from the Adalah Legal Center, the High Court was requested that local authorities' budgets be made fairer by taking into account the specifics of the damage done to Arab communities during the Coronavirus crisis.

The plaintiffs argue that temporary amendmants to the Basic Law on State Economy allow for a discounted tax rate for businesses alone, contrary to the law, which doesn’t limit government aid to specific sectors. They claim it disproportionately affects Arab councils that collect relatively more taxes on private homes, rather than businesses.

 "The current discrimination in the budgeting for local authorities is a continuation of the long-standing discrimination in the policy for receiving government budgets. The language of the amendment to the Basic Law is clear," said Zohar, adding that the Basic Law only deepens the gap between Arab and other communities, while Arab communities are in a deep crisis. (Jack Khoury)

5:48 P.M. Health Ministry asks government to approve opening of parks

The Health Ministry has requested that the government approve regulations allowing public parks to be opened, excluding the use of playgrounds and exercise facilities. (Noa Landau)

5:00 P.M. Government set to debate changes to quarantine order for people coming into the country

The government is set to discuss a proposal to change quarantine orders for those returning from abroad, so that they can self-quarantine at home, rather than in state-run facilities.

The proposal by Minister Gilad Erdan would require arriving passengers to show they can remain in quarantine in accordance with Health Ministry regulations at home or at another residence.

Those who are currently in quarantine at a special-purpose hotel may also be able be able to return home to complete their quarantine there, under the proposal. The new model would allow more people to return to Israel from abroad, the government said. Those who return will be provided with the necessary police and transport assistance to enter quarantine. (Noa Landau)

4:30 P.M. Hundreds of prisoners released because of the virus crisis to receive income support allowance 

Israel's National Insurance Institute announced on Sunday that, contrary to the policy so far, inmates who have recently been released from prison because of the coronavirus epidemic will be eligible for an income support allowance. This comes after hundreds of prisoners were released for house arrest to reduce crowding in prisons during the crisis without any government assistance.

Prisoners released due to overcrowding are eligible for a two-month income support allowance from the time they are released. However, those released last month due to the crisis were given a special 30-day vacation under full house arrest, and therefore not defined as released prisoners. This means that they were ineligible for the income support payment, which can range from 1,500 ($420) to 4,500 shekels, depending on age and marital status. Various social organizations approached the government offices to rectify the situation some weeks ago.

The Social Services Ministry has now announced that National Insurance Institute has determined that the payment will now also be available to prisoners not technically defined as released, without the need for legislative changes. According to a decision by the institute last week, prisoners who are on vacation from prison because of the coronavirus crisis can be designated as released prisoners - and therefore eligible for the allowance.

They said that in light of the uncertainty created by the situation, officials were instructed to consider the date of the prisoners' house arrest as the date on which their applications for income security were filed – even if they had not been filed so far. Thus, all prisoners released as part of the crisis – 572 by the end of last week – will be eligible for the allowance, as will those released later. (Lee Yaron)

3:15 P.M. Al-Aqsa Mosque complex to remain closed over Ramadan

Despite easing concern over new cases of the coronavirus in the West Bank and in Arab society, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf has decided not to open the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

In a statement issued by the Waqf, the group which runs the mosque, they said that despite the easing concern in some areas, opening the mosque at this stage would lead to tens of thousands of worshipers, which the Waqf management could not control. If visitors to the mosque were ill it could lead to mass infection, the statement said.

"We understand the feelings of the people and the worshipers, especially during the month of Ramadan," they added, saying that they are required to act responsibly so that the holy site does not become the center of an outbreak.

Waqf further noted that prayers at the mosque are only held in the presence of their officials, while all abide by the necessary restrictions. (Jack Khoury)

2:55 P.M. 1,039 coronavirus cases among Israeli Arabs, around half recovered

There are 1,039 cases of the coronavirus in Israel's Arab communities, 514 of which have recovered, according to the Arab Health Committee. These figures do not include East Jerusalem.

Overnight Thursday 10 new cases of the virus were discovered. 

The figures show that the percentage of people infected in Arab society is 75.6 per 100,000 people. (Jack Khoury)

2:17 P.M. No new cases in the West Bank, Bethlehem declared 'clean'

There were no new cases in the West Bank, and five districts were declared free of infections, after all 17 patients in Bethlehem, where the epidemic started in the West Bank started, recovered.

The other four districts are Tubas, Jenin, Jericho and Qalqilya, the Health Ministry said.

Palestinian authorities said there had been 547 cases in total in the West Bank; their statistics include communities in East Jerusalem. 334 have recovered, and 15,196 remain in isolation.

There were 20 cases in Gaza, of which 12 have recovered. (Jack Khoury)

11:29 A.M. Israeli hospital starts construction on new intensive care units

The Israeli Defence Ministry's Department of Engineering and Construction announced it was breaking ground on a new project to build four intensive care units for coronavirus patients in the parking lot of a central Israeli hospital. 

The project, dubbed Operation Bezeq, will see a 5,000 square meters 206-bed new wing open on two floors of Beilinson Hospital's underground car park within 20 weeks. (Ido Efrati)

11:27 A.M. Rate of infections keeps slowing, with total of cases up by 14 in 24 hours

Israel's Health Ministry puts total number of cases to 16,458, up from 16,454 at 8 P.M. on Saturday night, and 14 in the last 24 hours, the smallest daily increase in two months. 

One person has died, bringing the total death toll to 248. There are currently 4,826 active patients, 74 of them in serious condition; out ofthese, 65 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

SATURDAY

10:40 P.M. Government to vote on increasing eligibility for benefits

Israel's cabinet will vote Saturday night on lowering the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits. Workers who were employed for at least six months prior to furlough, as well as those under the age of 25 and discharged soldiers, will be eligible for benefits. In addition, the cabinet will vote on extending benefits through the month of May and giving advanced payments to those whose application is still processing from the month of April. (Noa Landau)

9:30 P.M. Chaos taints plans to reopen preschools as Israel eases coronavirus lockdown

Public and private preschools and day care centers will resume operation on Sunday with a maximum of 17 children per group or classroom, as per the Health Ministry’s regulations.

In order to meet the requirements, some 2,200 day cares will reopen for about 70 percent of enrolled children, excluding tens of thousands of toddlers aged three and younger. Many very young children will also be placed in new, unfamiliar settings for logistical reasons.

Some day care centers published a list of which children were accepted to return on Sunday just before Shabbat began on Friday evening. Some day cares will remain shut due to lack of demand, leaving many parents in the lurch since they were unaware their center would not reopen until the last minute.

The Social Affairs Ministry published a list of eligibility criteria for those allowed to come back to day care centers, which included families in the ministry’s care and children of single mothers. Some parents were told they had to move their children to a center with more space, which either means a longer drive each morning or forces parents to seek private child care and have their children cared for by unfamiliar staff. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

>> Read full report here

11:21 A.M. Israel’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise to 16,454

The Health Ministry said that 18 more people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus Saturday, bringing Israel's total to 16,454. It is the smallest daily rise since March 13, when 17 cases were diganosed.

Out of the confirmed cases, 11,376 have recovered. Seventy-one people are in serious condition, of whom 64 are on ventilators.

The number of coronavirus deaths is at 247. (Haaretz)

7:16 P.M. Israelis storm beaches after weeks of lockdown

Civilians and police are struggling to adhere to and consistently enforce the new, lenient coronavirus regulations in Israel. Over the weekend, inspectors ordered away hundreds of families at the Sea of Galilee and fined bathers at the beaches of Rishon Lezion, but left large crowds in Tel Aviv unbothered.

Tel Aviv was lively and colorful on Saturday after a weeks-long lull. There were many people at the beaches, and though sunbathing is still banned, some locals took to paddleball as a legal sports activity. (Bar Peleg, Noa Shpigel and Almog Ben Zikri)

>> Click here to read the full report

11:21 A.M. Israel’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 8 to 16,444

The Health Ministry said that eight more people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing total to 16,444. Out of these, 11,313 have recovered. Eighty-one people are in serious condition, of whom 65 are on ventilators.

The Number of coronavirus deaths remains at 245. (Haaretz)

FRIDAY

8:00 P.M. Number of cases in Israel rises to 16,436

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 16,436, marking a rise of 30 cases today. Sixty-three people are on ventilators, while the death toll remains at 245. Yesterday, 10,137 coronavirus tests were performed. (Haaretz)

6:35 P.M. Hundreds flock to beaches despite ban on gathering

Israelis flocked to beaches on Friday since the first time the coronavirus lockdown was put in place, even though it is still illegal to congregate on beaches and in parks. In Tel Aviv, loudspeakers played an announcement requesting that visitors leave, but fines were not given out to bathers.  

Police and the Tel Aviv Municipality traded responsibility for enforcing the ban on gathering on beaches, with both claiming that it falls under the other's jurisdiction to levy fines and disperse visitors. 

Zikim Beach, in Israel's south, also saw hundreds of visitors, but authorities did not enforce the ban on gathering. Dozens of beachgoers in Rishon Letzion, though, did receive fines. Police and municipal authorities cleared hundreds of families from the Sea of Galilee's shores. (Bar Peleg and Noa Shpigel)

5:50 P.M. Six arrested in Bnei Brak during illegal gathering

Six people have been arrested in Bnei Brak during an illegal gathering in front of a public figure's home, police say. They are suspected of traveling further from their homes than coronavirus restrictions allow, as well as of disturbing the peace and ignoring police trying to stop them blocking a road. They also were not wearing masks, according to police. (Bar Peleg)

5:15 P.M. Agreement reached to reopen Israel's after-school day care centers

The Finance Ministry, Education Ministry and local authorities have reached an agreement on reopening after-school day care centers for children between the ages of three and eight in coming days.

The centers are to keep the children in same groups as during the school day, so only children who already interact during the day are in contact with one another. The parties agreed that the centers will be financially compensated. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

2:43 P.M. Basketball league games to resume in June

The Israeli Basketball Premier League will resume in June, with the first game expected on June 20. League directors and team representatives agreed that games will pick up from where they left off, and team practices will begin on June 1. (Arie Livnat) 

2:21 P.M. Chief rabbis stress holiday restrictions

Israel's chief rabbis called on the public to comply with the government's ban on lighting bonfires during the Lag Ba’omer holiday. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

1:49 P.M. Minister tells public to avoid public transport

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on the public to avoid using public transportation unless necessary, as there is a deficit in buses and drivers due to the coronavirus restrictions limiting the number of passengers in each bus. 

He said trains will resume operation on May 17. 

11:56 A.M. Israel confirms five new deaths, bringing total to 245

Israel's Health Ministry reported five patients with COVID-19 died, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 245. 77 patients are in serious condition, with 64 of them on life support.

Overall, 16,409 coronavirus cases have been confirmed so far, but 11,007 of them have recovered. (Haaretz)

1:16 A.M. U.S. synagogues may reopen by High Holy Days, Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that synagogues in the United States may be able to be open for the High Holy Days in the fall – but only if certain conditions are met in terms of testing, contact tracing and social distancing, in order to ensure that prayer services don't contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

Fauci spoke with rabbis from across the country on a conference call organized by the Orthodox Union. He expressed optimism that religious activities could be renewed before the end of the year, but noted that synagogues would not be able to operate in the same way as prior to the pandemic.

It would be a "good idea" to do minyan prayer once every five days, as opposed to every day, he said, pointing out that he did assume to understand what this would mean “from a spiritual standpoint.” (Amir Tibon)

>> Click here to read the full report

THURSDAY

8:13 P.M. Two-thirds of Israel's coronavirus cases have recovered, figures show

71 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in Israel in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 16,381. 83 patients are in serious condition, and 68 of them on life support.

236 patients have recovered in the past day, with a total of 10,873 recoveries so far – roughly two-thirds of all confirmed cases. There are 5,268 active cases.

240 Israelis with COVID-19 died so far. (Haaretz)

6:23 P.M. Survey: Pandemic hit half of Israelis in the pocket

About half of Israelis have suffered economically due to the coronavirus crisis, while a third are experiencing stress and anxiety, a survey held recently by the Central Bureau of Statistics over the past few weeks shows.

In contrast, most Israelis have confidence in the government’s performance during the crisis.

The survey was conducted by the bureau and National Security Council at the end of April among a representative sample of some 1,300 people from the age of 21 and up. It was meant to provide the decision makers with vital data regarding the public’s fortitude following the pandemic. Questions regarded health, mental state, food consumption, economic situation and the public’s level of confidence in the government and local authorities.

Almost half of the interviewees – 46.1 percent of the Jews and 57 percent of the Arabs – reported that their own and their families’ economic situation has worsened following the coronavirus crisis. About a quarter of them believed their economic situation would continue to deteriorate. Also, 14.1 percent said they or one of their family members reduced the amount of food or meals they consumed in the week prior to the survey, mainly for economic reasons.

The health of 5.4 percent of the people worsened or worsened considerably during the crisis and 22.5 percent said their mental state had deteriorated. A third – 34.3 percent – said they experienced stress and anxiety, 16.2 percent said they experienced depression and 23.5 percent said they experienced loneliness. 

At the same time, 38 percent have a lot of confidence in the government’s handling of the crisis and 33.6 percent more have certain confidence in it. A higher percentage of Israelis expressed confidence in their local authority. (Lee Yaron)

4:55 P.M. Israeli justice minister extends emergency closure of courts for another week

Justice Minister Amir Ohana has signed regulations extending emergency measures freezing the activity of the country's courts for another week. The courts will reopen on May 17 to give the legal system time to prepare for a return to normal activity, according to a statement from Ohana. Ohana froze the courts' activities in March, but said urgent cases would still be heard. (Haaretz)

4:30 P.M. No outbreak among asylum seekers, homeless, Tel Aviv hospital says

Results of coronavirus tests given by Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital), Tel Aviv to asylum seekers, foreign workers and homeless people show that there is no outbreak among these populations, according to the hospital. The results of tests conducted between the beginning of April and May 6 at a testing facility near the city's central bus station found ten infected individuals out of 332 people tested.

Six of 204 asylum seekers and foreign workers were found positive, along with four out of 128 houseless people and others who came to the facility. Nadir Arber, director of the Integrated Cancer Prevention Center at the hospital and a specialist in internal medicine, told Haaretz: "There was concern that there might be outbreak cluster among the foreign population in south Tel Aviv given their living and housing conditions. Data from all the tests we conducted make it clear that there is no risk or need for concern and that there is no outbreak in south Tel Aviv.

"The rate of infection in this population is the same as the Israeli one [in general]," he added. "We're talking about people who were worried and arrived [to get tested], but the percentage of cases is still very small. We will keep giving the tests in the area for monitoring purposes, but the findings leave no doubt that right now, the situation in south Tel Aviv is excellent." (Lee Yaron)

4:00 P.M. Israel's state watchdog says preparing to review government's response to coronavirus outbreak

Israel's state comptroller, Matanyahu Englman, says his office is preparing to examine the response to the coronavirus pandemic, after coming under fire in March for deciding not to monitor the government's decisions and, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, put some employees on leave.

A letter from the comptroller's office sent this week in reply to a request for an urgent review of the government's response says that Englman "is examining the decisions made by the government regarding the coronavirus." The letter did not specify a timetable or the specific aspects that will be reviewed. (Amos Harel)

2:35 P.M. Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market reopens; vendors furious over coronavirus restrictions

A month and a half after it was shuttered amid the coronavirus crisis, Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market reopened on Thursday under some restrictions, sparking the ire of vendors.

Thousands of people arriving at the market had to wait in a long line to have their temperature taken before entering the market.

Roadblocks were set at all the entrances to the market to limit the number of people entering it, and inspectors had difficulties in ensuring those waiting in line maintained a two-meter distance from one another.

The decision to reopen the market came after extensive negotiations were held between the Health Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality and the vendors.  

According to Health Ministry guidelines, the number of people allowed inside the market cannot exceed 750 at any given time. At some point today, security guards had to stop people from entering the market until those inside left.      

Some vendors, however, welcomed the decision to open the market despite the restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus. “People like to whine,” said one. “They should be thankful that the market is open now.”  (Nir Hasson)

11:26 P.M. Israel reopens malls, markets and gyms

As part of the steps Israel has taken to ease the coronavirus restrictions imposed by the government, malls, markets and gym are allowed to reopen starting Thursday.

According to Health Ministry guidelines, the number of people entering shopping centers or visiting markets will be regulated and not exceed one person per 20 square meters at any given time.

Gyms may not have more than one person per 10 square meters (compared to the usual 15-person limit).

In addition, a sign will be placed outside the malls and markets informing the passerby the number of people allowed to enter the stores, while putting an emphasis on maintaining a two-meter distance between each shopper. Specific areas will be designated for people waiting in line.

Moreover, both in malls and in markets people will be obligated to maintain good hygiene, including disinfecting surfaces. Disinfectants will be available for all visitors at all times, and people not wearing masks will not be allowed inside the markets. (Haaretz)

11:13 A.M. Israel publishes updated coronavirus numbers

According to the Health Ministry, 45 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours as opposed to seven new diagnosed cases. In total, Israel has 16,346 confirmed cases, 69 of which are on ventilators and 10,737 have recuperated from COVID-19.

06:00 A.M. Israel's private day cares to reopen Sunday in limited format

The Finance Ministry announced that private day cares will return operating starting Sunday. The ministry's representatives came to an understanding with the day cares that they would work with up to 17 children in one group, with the preschool manager choosing whether to rotate the children or find another solution to meet the guidelines.

It was also agreed that kindergartens will receive a one-time grant, the size of which will be determined according to the number of children in the kindergarten, as compensation for the loss they have incurred. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

12:30 A.M. Israeli government relaxes emergency regulations for those returning from abroad

The Israeli government extended the coronavirus emergency regulations requiring those returning from abroad to be isolated in hotels, but at the same time increased the order's flexibility. So far, those returning to Israel have been obliged to stay in hotels except "under special circumstances", and now they will be allowed to stay in their home for "health and humanitarian reasons, or for personal or other reasons that is found warranted."

In order to receive the exemption, those returning from overseas will have to prove that they have a "suitable place for isolation" to prevent a situation where they will infect their household members. The government decision states that the flexibility on exemptions is due to the fact that "the returning population from the end of April is characterized by older people or families who own their own homes." (Noa Landau)

WEDNESDAY  

10:14 P.M. Number of coronavirus cases in Israel stands at 16,310

The Health Ministry said that 16,310 Israelis have been so far diagnosed with the coronavirus, with 33 new cases registered since Tuesday.  

So far, 174 people have recovered, 89 are in serious condition, 69 of whom are on ventilators and 239 have died of the virus. (Haaretz)

9:38 P.M. Israel approves Lag Ba’omer restrictions to prevent coronavirus spread, barring bonfires nationwide

The government has approved a series of restrictions to prevent a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus during the next week’s Lag Ba’omer holiday, including by banning bonfires nationwide.

The ban on bonfires, which are a Lag Ba’omer tradition, will be in place from Thursday May 7 until Wednesday May 13. The holiday itself runs from sundown on May 11 to sundown on May 12.

The one exception will be the bonfires on Mount Meron, where according to tradition the Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is buried. These bonfires will take place under strict restrictions.

Throughout this week, people are barred from being on Mount Meron unless they live or work there. Consequently, guesthouses may not rent rooms to out-of-town visitors during this week.

Between Thursday May 14 and Sunday May 17, a more limited access ban will be in place. People will be barred from visiting the town of Meron and the grave of Rabbi Bar Yochai – a traditional pilgrimage site during this period – and guesthouses may not rent rooms to out-of-town visitors.

Three bonfires will be permitted near Bar Yochai’s grave, all at different times. But attendance at each will be limited to 50 people.

Additionally, there will be no public transportation to Mount Meron during these three days, except for residents of the area and the people granted permits to attend the bonfires.

Anyone who violates these restrictions will be subject to a fine.

As of Sunday, May 10, up to 19 or 20 people will be able to participate in weddings, funerals and prayer services held outdoors. In addition, up to 19 people will be able to attend indoor circumcisions.

Also starting next week, therapy sessions for minors may take place without masks or social distancing.

Gyms and dance studios will be allowed to open next week as well. But gyms may not have more than one person per 10 square meters (compared to the usual 15-person limit), while studios may not have more than one per seven square meters.

The Health Ministry urged the public to continue practicing social distancing, wear masks and maintain good hygiene. (Noa Landau)

7:20 P.M. Israeli Premier League to resume on May 30

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the plan formulated by the Health Ministry, the Sports and Culture Ministry and the Israel Football Association allowing the Premier and National leagues to resume playing on May 30. (Itamar Katzir and Or Boker)

6:40 P.M. Health Ministry approves plan for reopening day cares

The Health Ministry approved the return of children aged 0-3 to day cares. The children won’t be divided into small group like in preschools, but day cares will be allowed to accept up to 17 children.

Private day cares would be allowed to accept up to five children. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

6:37 P.M. Arab communities approve partial resumption of studies starting Thursday

The Arab councils committee adopted the recommendation of the Arab society's emergency committee to resume studies according to Education Ministry guidelines. Starting Thursday, 11th and 12th grades will resume studies, and first to third grades will resume studies on Sunday. (Jack Khoury) 

6:30 P.M. Israeli cabinet to hold meeting on Lag Ba'omer restrictions

The cabinet will discuss in a phone meeting whether to bar bonfires and limit access to Mount Meron for the traditional Lag Ba’omer celebration at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

This year, Israel will mark Lag Ba'omer on May 11-12. (Noa Landau)

12:50 A.M. Arab communities to resume studies for some grades Thursday 

The Arab councils committee, which will convene in the coming hour, will adopt the recommendation of the Arab society's emergency committee to resume studies according to Education Ministry guidelines. Starting Thursday, 11th and 12th grades will resume studies, and first to third grades will resume studies this week. Local authorities will decide how and when to resume schooling at the local level. (Jack Khoury)

11:40 A.M. Education Ministry considers resuming classes for fourth to sixth graders

The Education Ministry is weighing sending fourth to sixth graders back t0 school for one school day per week, beginning May 17.(Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

11:00 A.M. Israel confirms 25 new cases of virus

Israel confirmed 25 new cases of the coronavirus overnight, raising the total number of cases to 16,314. Twenty five have recovered overnight and there are currently 5,549 active cases of the virus. The large majority of cases are in mild condition, with 55 in moderate condition and 90 in serious condition. Seventy patients are on ventilators.

The death toll remains steady at 238.

9:29 A.M. 100,000 Israelis to be tested for virus antibodies

The Health Ministry plans to conduct serological testing to detect the presence of coronavirus antibodies on roughly 100,000 Israelis. This will give a snapshot of how the coronavirus spreads, into order to prepare for a second wave of infection, according to Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov in an interview with the New York Times.

According to a Bar Siman Tov, the testing process will begin in a week or two, and will occur via the HMOs. "This is the most important task: To prepare for the next wave, especially the one that will come during the winter," he said. "Luckily the virus hit us after the flu season, but we can't assume there won't be another wave or [that] it won't happen during the summer."

The purpose of testing is to identify the extent to which the Israeli population has been exposed to the virus and has developed antibodies to it. If a significant proportion of the community has developed virus antibodies, it is possible to develop "herd immunity" to it, allowing the population to withstand another outbreak.

However, if it turns out that only a small proportion of the population has been exposed to the virus, a second wave of the virus could hit the country more intensely. Bar Siman Tov said estimates on the proportion of Israelis who have developed antibodies range from less than one percent to more than ten percent. (Haaretz)

Read previous updates

Comments