COVID Israel Live: Cabinet Approves Full Reopening of Schools Amid 9-month Low in Serious Cases

Israeli research shows vaccine may not be as effective against South African strain ■ Infection rate down after brief uptick

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Audience members at a soccer stadium in Tel Aviv, March, 2021.
Audience members at a soccer stadium in Tel Aviv, March, 2021.Credit: Oded Balilty,AP

Months into its mass coronavirus vaccination campaign, Israel sees a drop in COVID infections and in the number of serious cases. Israel has reopened commerce and culture for vaccinated people, and lifted most restrictions on flights. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 6,304 Israelis have died of the virus.

Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have received 30,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by Israel, as well as shipments of over 160,000 vaccines via the COVAX scheme. A total of 2,447 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 677 have died in Gaza.

LIVE UPDATES

11:48 P.M. Cabinet approves plan to fully reopen schools

Israel's coronavirus cabinet approved an Education Ministry-drafted proposal to fully reopen the country's education system, lifting most restrictions on schools.

According to the new policy, should a COVID-19 carrier be discovered at a school, the student’s age group will have to get tested before being allowed back to school. (Haaretz)

08:06 P.M. Cabinet to vote on plan to fully reopen schools

The ministerial committee responsible for Israel's coronavirus response is set to vote Monday evening on a new proposal to reopen Israel's education system, which would let schools resume normal activity for all ages and without splitting classes into small groups.

According to the new plan, devised by the Education Ministry, should a new COVID-19 carrier be discovered at a school, the student’s age group will have to get tested before being allowed back to school.

After infection rates throughout the country have remained low over the past two weeks, Israel can move forward and open its education system, the Health Ministry said in a statement ahead of the cabinet meeting. (Ido Efrati)

10:21 A.M. Israel sees 9-month low in serious patients

Israel's health ministry reported 253 COVID patients in serious condition on Monday, the lowest number since July last year.

So far, 5,320,077 people have received the first vaccine dose, while 4,936,635 received the second shot. 6,299 people in Israel have died from COVID since the pandemic's onset. (Haaretz)

SUNDAY

11:00 A.M. South African strain can 'break through' Pfizer vaccine, Israeli study says

The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can “break through” Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found, though its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed.

The study, released on Saturday, compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated patients with the disease. It matched age and gender, among other characteristics.

The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1 percent of all the COVID-19 cases across all the people studied, according to the study by Tel Aviv University and Israel’s largest healthcare provider, Clalit. (Reuters)

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10:55 A.M. Israel further eases restriction at schools

The ministerial committee responsible for Israel's coronavirus response approved further easing of restrictions on schools on Thursday. The decision went into effect on Sunday.

According to the regulations approved by the cabinet, students would no longer be obligated to present a health statement signed by their parents when if they wish to enter the school. In addition, fourth graders would no longer be divided into capsules. (Haaretz)

10:20 A.M. Israel's active cases further decrease as almost 5 million get second vaccine dose

Israel's Health Ministry registered 86 new COVID cases on Sunday, while the number of people who got the second vaccine dose stood at 4,921,648 (52.92 percent of the population). 5,310,216 people (57.1 percent of the population), received the first dose. 

The number of seriously ill patients rose from 259 to 263 overnight, while the number of active cases dropped to 3,890. There are currently 153 patients in critical condition and 139 are on ventilators. Out of the 11,173 coronavirus tests carried out Saturday, less than one percent – 0.8 percent – came back positive. 

THURSDAY

6:52 P.M. Cabinet loosens restrictions on gatherings and events

The cabinet approved on Wednesday loosening a number of coronavirus restrictions, as the number of new cases a day remains relatively low. The maximum number of people allowed to gather outdoors has been raised to 100, with the cap remaining at 20 people for indoor gatherings.

Large outdoor stadiums will be allowed to host 10,000 people instead of 5,000, while indoor stadiums will be able to host crowds at 40 percent of their capacity, with a maximum of 4,000 people. The number of people allowed to participate at event that do not involve seating or food will be increased from 500 to 750, while mass participation sporting events like marathons will be able to include up to 1,000 participants. (Ido Efrati)

10:32 A.M. Daily infection rate back on downward trend

Israel confirmed 274 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, Health Ministry figures show, as the infection coefficient – also known as the R number, representing the average number of people a carrier infects – is back on a downward trend.

The R number currently stands at 0.76, down from 0.79.

Moreover, only about 0.5 percent of COVID tests conducted over the past two days in Israel returned a positive result. (Haaretz)

9:19 A.M. Ministers set to ease restrictions on education system

The ministerial committee responsible for Israel's coronavirus response is expected approve further easing of restrictions on schools in a meeting slated for later on Thursday.

According to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein's proposal, primary schools will gradually stop diving classes into smaller groups, as long as infection rates remain relatively low.

Edelstein also seeks to ease some limitations on junior high schools. "Education is of great importance," he said in a statement. (Ido Efrati)

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