Authorities in Israel, as well as the West Bank and Gaza, are grappling with the current increase in coronavirus cases, which has prompted directives to curb its spread but also an effort to mitigate the economic consequences of the crisis.
Israel has entered a third nationwide lockdown, and has severely limited the entry of foreigners into the country as cases continue to spike. Israelis returning from abroad are obligated to go into quarantine for 14 days – or 10 days if they twice test negative for COVID-19.
Israel currently has 40,929 active cases; 3,292 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 12,972 active cases and 1,120 deaths, and in Gaza 10,729 active cases and 340 deaths.
3:45 P.M. International arrivals will no longer quarantine in government facilities, health minister says
Israelis returning from abroad will no longer have to quarantine in government-run facilities, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday. Anyone arriving from abroad will be required to immediately get a coronavirus test and quarantine at home for two weeks, or 10 days if another test is taken on the ninth day, he announced. Authorities announced last week that arrivals would have to quarantine in these facilities in light of the new coronavirus strain initially identified in the United Kingdom. (Haaretz)
12:38 P.M. Member of Big Brother Israel produtcion team tests positive for COVID-19, 20 sent into quarantine
A member of the production team at Israel's edition of the popular reality show Big Brother has tested positive just weeks after the new season began.
Twenty production staff were sent into quarantine following the diagnosis.
"Before the program aired, the production did consider what would happen if someone on set did test positive with coronavirus. The health of the production team and the contestants is our priority, all the while fulfilling the guidlines of the Health Ministry," Big Brother's production team said in a statement. (Itay Stern)
8:21 A.M. Health Ministry: 495,000 people vaccinated so far
The Health Ministry said 495,000 Israelis were already administered the first of two doses of the coronavirus vaccine since the start of the inocluation campaign last week. More than 115,000 people were given the vaccination on Monday alone.
At the current rate, officials expect to be able to vaccinate all those considered at a higher risk by the end of January. (Haaretz)
5:59 A.M. Israeli officials concerned over low inoculation rate among Arabs
More than a week after Israel launched is coronavirus vaccine drive, the Health Ministry reports that the response in the country’s Arab communities is below that of the Jewish population.
Several HMO clinics in Arab communities received approval from the ministry to begin vaccinating people under the age of 60, who are otherwise ineligible for the vaccine at this stage of the campaign. (Jack Khoury and Ido Efrati)
11:30 P.M. Israel reports 5,800 new cases in 24 hours
Israel has confirmed 5,815 new cases of the coronavirus in 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry, with 5.6% of tests coming back positive.
Since Sunday, 30 people have died, raising the total death toll to 3,256. Of the nearly 13,000 active cases, 592 people are in serious condition and 134 are on life support.
10:18 P.M. Man has severe allergic reaction following COVID-19 vaccination
A 49-year-old man in Jerusalem has suffered from an anaphylactic reaction following his inoculation with the coronavirus vaccine about an hour earlier on Monday.
The man reported that he previously had a serious allergic reaction as a result of a penicillin allergy, but that he had no preexisting health conditions.
He received medication upon arrival in the emergency medical center and he is in a stable condition. He will remain there for monitoring. (Ido Efrati)
10:12 P.M. New ‘traffic light’ classification of localities won’t go into effect on Tuesday, keeping 640,000 students at school
The Education Ministry said schools will open on Tuesday in accordance with existing classification of areas according to their rate of COVID-19 infection, as an updated classification scheme has not been approved by the cabinet on time.
The cabinet only approved the updated scheme on Monday evening, meaning it will only go into effect 24 hours later, on Tuesday evening. Therefore, schools will only be affected when they open on Wednesday.
Under the new “traffic light” plan, localities with some 640,000 students from fifth- to 12th-grade, were to be designated as orange or red, meaning they were supposed to attend classes online instead of in person on Tuesday. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia and Judy Maltz)
5:30 P.M. Health minister: At-risk groups could all be inoculated 'in weeks'
Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that Israel will receive millions more vaccinations over the next months, as per its agreement with the pharmaceutical companies, and that there is “big hope” that the country’s at-risk populations could all be inoculated in the “coming weeks.”
The minister also added that Israel has vaccinated approximately half a million people since the national rollout began last week. (Ido Efrati)
5:05 P.M. Health Ministry investigating the death following COVID-19 vaccination of elderly man with preexisting condition
The death of a 75-year-old man shortly after he received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine has prompted an investigation from Israel’s Health Ministry. Preliminary findings from an investigation of the case indicate that there was no connection between the vaccination and the death of the man, who had previously suffered from several heart attacks.
Since last week, 380,000 Israelis have received the first of two doses of the vaccine, manufactured by the Pfizer pharmaceutical firm. The man’s death was the first of its kind in the country following vaccination against COVID-19.
In the third and final phase of Pfizer's clinical trials of the vaccine on 38,000 subjects, half of whom received a placebo rather than the real vaccine, six deaths were recorded. Two had received the vaccine — one who suffered from obesity and the other from an arterial condition. The four others had received the placebo. (Noa Shpigel and Ido Efrati)
3:30 P.M. Rate of vaccination high among ultra-Orthodox, lower in Arab community
The ultra-Orthodox sector has been very responsive to the vaccination drive, largely due to the encouragement of senior rabbis, Health Ministry sources reported.
"The ultra-Orthodox community has been very receptive, and the demand for the vaccination has even outstripped the supply,” a source added, but also warned against complacency on the heels of mass vaccinations.
In relation to Israel's population as a whole, the ultra-Orthodox community has a far lower proportion of elderly people.
On the other hand, the Arab sector has been less responsive to the vaccination campaign than the rest of the population, to the extent that younger people who are not yet encouraged to register for inoculation are receiving vaccinations in order for them not to go to waste. (Ido Efrati)
1:20 P.M. Knesset panel ratifies lockdown regulations
The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the lockdown regulations that went into effect on Sunday.
Eight lawmakers voted in favor of the approving the regulations, while seven voted against it.
Opposition lawmakers requested a re-vote. (Jonathan Lis)
11:15 A.M. Israel updates its COVID hotspot map, placing half its population in high risk areas
The Health Ministry updated its classification of communities according to its so-called traffic light plan, placing half of Israel's population in "red" and "orange" communities, where infection rates are high.
According to the new classification, in-person classes would not be held for grades five through 12 starting Monday in the red and orange communities.
On Sunday, the Knesset's Education Committee overturned a government decision to have students in the fifth through 10th grades nationwide return to studying remotely during the lockdown that went into effect that evening, deciding instead that classes would continue normally in green and yellow communities. (Ido Efrati)
7:22 A.M. Almost 100,000 Israelis vaccinated against COVID on Sunday
Nearly 100,000 Israelis were vaccinated against the coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the total number of people vaccinated so far to 379,000 as Israel enters the second week of its national vaccination campaign.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attributed the achievement to the "amazing work" of the ministry, hospitals, and health maintenance organizations.
Edelstein also thanked the public for its cooperation, promising that the rapid pace of the vaccination campaign will continue. (Haaretz)
6:05 P.M. Knesset panel adjourns meeting without voting on lockdown regulations
The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee adjourned its meeting on lockdown regulations without voting on the new directives.
Israel entered its third lockdown on Sunday at 5 P.M.
Under the Coronavirus Law, the committee has the power to cancel or change some of the new regulations even after the lockdown went into effect.
Committee members are expected to vote on the new regulations on Monday.
Should the committee fail to vote on the new regulations within a week, the Knesset would have to vote on them. (Jonathan Lis)
5:51 P.M. Health minister blasts decision to open school for all students during lockdown
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein slammed the Knesset's Education Committee for overturning a government decision to have students in fifth through 10th grade return to studying remotely during the lockdown that went into effect on Sunday at 5 P.M.
Edelstein said that he believes the move will surely extend the two-week lockdown, but added that he has faith in Israel's citizens to adhere to the new restrictions. (Haaretz)
5:00 P.M. Israel enters third nationwide lockdown
Israelis entered a nationwide lockdown beginning Sunday at 5 P.M., the third since the onset of the pandemic.
The lockdown will be in effect for at least two weeks, following Friday’s cabinet approval of the regulations associated with it.
Some 4,000 police officers will be deployed across the country to enforce the lockdown.
As opposed to the two previous lockdowns, soldiers will not take part in enforcing COVID regulations in the current lockdown.
Police are expected to mainly enforce quarantine orders and prevent mass gatherings.
The decision not to set up checkpoints during the day on intercity roads and at entrances and exits to main cities came after this measure created serious traffic jams in the previous lockdowns.
Instead, traffic police officers will randomly inspect drivers. As of 6:30 P.M., 300 officers will be deployed throughout the country during the two-week lockdown.
However, police are concerned that the public will not adhere to lockdown directives because of the vaccination drive launched last week and the severe economic crisis many Israelis are experiencing. (Judy Maltz and Josh Breiner)
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4:55 P.M. Israel ranks first in administrating vaccines per 100 people
Israel came in first in administrating COVID-19 vaccination doses per 100 people in the total population, according to the Our World in Data online publication.
Israel is followed by Bahrain, the United Kingdom and the United States. (Haaretz)
4:49 P.M. Israel Teachers' Union announces labor dispute, demanding to vaccinate teachers
The Israel Teachers' Union declared a labor dispute on Sunday, demanding that all teachers be vaccinated against coronavirus.
The Histadrut stated in its announcement that if the issue is not resolved by January 12, 2021, its teachers will reserve the right to go on strike, including long-distance teaching.
The secretary general of the union, Yaffa ben David, commented: “If there will not vaccinations, there will not be studies. We won’t agree to abandon the health of teaching employees." (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
3:22 P.M. Israeli Olympic athletes to receive COVID vaccine in two weeks
Athletes in Israel's Olympic squad will begin vaccinating against the coronavirus in two weeks, the Olympic Committee said in a statement.
The committee has recommended all Olympic athletes and team members to be inoculated against the virus.
The committee, however, added that it cannot obligate athletes who do not want to be vaccinated to get the vaccine. (Itamar Katzir)
1:07 P.M. Knesset panel overturns government decision: All students to attend school during lockdown
The Knesset's Education Committee overturned a government decision to have students in fifth through 10th grade return to studying remotely during the lockdown that goes into effect at 5:00 P.M.
Following the committee's decision, all students will continue to attend schools in-person, except for students in fifth grade and up at schools located in municipalities that are not defined as green.
The members of the committee from Kahol Lavan, the Joint List, Yesh Atid-Telem, Labor and Meretz voted in favor of the proposal to reverse the government's decision, while Likud lawmaker Keti Shitrit voted against it and Shas lawmaker Yosef Tayeb abstained.
Last week, the government's COVID cabinet agreed to have grades five through 10 return completely to remote learning, while preschools and the remaining grades attending classes only between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M. The decision was made without consulting professionals from the health and education ministry, and was vehemently criticized by officials in the education system. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
10:45 A.M. Health Minister says 280,000 people were vaccinated last week
Some 280,000 people were vaccinated last week, of whom 71,000 were vaccinated over the weekend, said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein Sunday morning, adding that efforts continue to ramp up.
Last week marked the first week of Israel’s vaccine campaign. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two does. (Ido Efrati)
10:25 P.M. More than 3,600 new confirmed coronavirus cases since Friday night
According to data released by the Health Ministry on Saturday night, since Friday night 3,624 people tested positive for the coronavirus and 17 people died. Some 561 people are hospitalized in serious condition, of whom 136 are on ventilators. (Haaretz)
10:20 P.M. Netanyahu sets new vaccination goal of 150,000 people a day
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Saturday night that he has set a goal for the health system to vaccinate 150,000 people a day, beginning next weekend.
Last week, about a quarter of a million Israelis received the first of two doses of the vaccine, and complex immunization complexes continued operating over the weekend.
Netanyahu said that he spoke with the heads of Pfizer and Moderna, which supply Israel with the vaccines, over the weekend. "I asked them to peg the vaccine delivery rate to the injection rate, [and] they told me they think they can do it," Netanyahu said.
According to the prime minister, if the vaccination rate goes up, 2.25 million citizens will be vaccinated within 30 days, a “critical” first stage because this group of citizens represents the “entire at-risk population, all the medical staff, all the people over the age of 60” for which the risk of mortality is 95 percent.
Netanyahu asserted that once we've passed this first critical stage, “within 30 days we can get out of the corona[virus], open up the economy and do things that no country can do." (Judy Maltz)
9:00 P.M. 250,000 Israelis vaccinated in first week of Israel's COVID-19 vaccine drive
A quarter of a million Israelis received the first of two doses of the coronavirus vaccine last week, the first week of Israel’s vaccine campaign.
During the weekend, dozens of clinics across the country were open, vaccinating tens of thousands of Israelis. (Ido Efrati)
6:08 P.M. Minister orders not to vaccinate Palestinian security prisoners
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana ordered the Israel Prison Service on Thursday not to vaccinate Palestinian security prisoners without approval, and only in accordance with the progress of vaccinating the Israeli public.
Ohana added that only prison facility staff will receive the vaccine. (Josh Breiner)
12:50 P.M. Government approves lockdown regulations
The government approved the regulations for Israel's next coronavirus lockdown Friday morning by telephone conference.
The lockdown will take effect on Sunday at 5:00 P.M. and stay in effect for 14 days, until January 9.
Israelis will be limited to a 1,000-meter radius of their homes. Israelis are permitted to exceed this distance limit to get vaccinated, to receive medical treatment, to protest, for sport activity (though the location must be reached on foot), to transfer a minor between parents' households, to go to work, or to take part in a funeral, wedding or brit milah that adheres to the restrictions surrounding gatherings.
Israelis will be fined 500 shekels (about $155) for violating this regulation.
Israelis are forbidden from spending time in the homes of others. Public spaces and shops will be closed, with the exception of essential businesses (which include places to buy food, pharmacies, eyeglass shops and home improvement stores).
All hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, public gardens and zoos will be closed. Hair salons, cosmeticians and non-medical treatment centers will be shuttered, as well as drive-in movie theaters. Malls and markets will be closed. Driving lessons will be forbidden.
Restaurants will only be permitted to deliver food, and cannot open for takeout.
Only professional athletes will have access to training gyms.
Workplaces that do not receive members of the public will be allowed to work with up to 10 employees.
Schools will operate as usual for kindergarten, first through fourth grades and 11th and 12th grades. Grades five through ten will study from home. (Judy Maltz)
8:30 A.M. Nearly 210,000 vaccinated in Israel so far, health minister says
Nearly 210,000 people in Israel have received COVID-19 vaccines since the vaccination drive began on Sunday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Friday, adding that the rate of vaccinations would increase in the coming days. Over 74,000 people were vaccinated on Thursday alone, he said. The vaccine is currently available to medical staff and people over the age of 60. (Haaretz)
10:00 P.M. Health Minister calls to vaccinate 100,000 Israelis per day
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein instructed the director of the Health Ministry to work around the clock in order to reach 100,000 vaccinations per day.
"In recent days, a mutation [of the coronavirus] has been found that spreads at a very quick pace and that we have not seen before. We are in a race against time. The faster we can vaccinate citizens the more lives we will save," the Health Minister's Office said. "As such, the health minister has ordered the director of his office to work to provide vaccines 24/7, to gather manpower for that goal, and to reach a rate of over 100,000 vaccinations a day. The coronavirus endangers us all, and vaccines will save us all," the statement said. (Ido Efrati)
9:50 P.M. Cases rise by 4,480, highest since early October
The number of coronavirus cases has risen by 4,480 since the previous tally on Wednesday night, according to Health Ministry figures released Thursday night, marking the largest daily increase since October 6. Twenty more people have died, bringing the death toll to 3,170. The number of patients in serious condition has risen by 29 to 526, with 122 of them on ventilators. (Haaretz)
8:05 P.M. Fifth case of new coronavirus variant identified in Israel
A fifth case of the new variant of the coronavirus originally identified in the U.K. was diagnosed in Israel on Thursday, a day after the previous four cases were diagnosed. The new strain was diagnosed in a woman who returned from the U.K. several days earlier and who has been in home quarantine since her return, having arrived before the new rule requiring all international arrivals to quarantine in government facilities went into effect. (Haaretz)
4:55 P.M. Government backtracks on restricting clasroom hours
The government has backtracked on its plan to restrict classroom hours during the lockdown beginning Sunday, meaning that preschools, grades one through four, and grades eleven and twelve will continue to attend classes as normal. Grades five through ten will continue to study remotely. (Judy Maltz)
3:48 P.M. Gantz and head of Knesset Education Committee speak out against restricting classroom hours
A number of officials in the education system criticized on Thursday the government's decision to limit in-person classes as part of the third lockdown beginning on Sunday.
On Wednesday, the cabinet agreed to have grades five through 10 return completely to remote learning, while preschools and the remaining grades attending classes only between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, chairman of the Kahol Lavan party, said Thursday that restricting hours was a mistake and that he would work to change the decision – although it was approved with his agreement.
Ram Shefa, chairman of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee, said he would oppose the restriction. That committee can veto regulations related to the education system, and Shefa said it would convene to discuss the issue on Sunday. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
2:38 P.M. Health Ministry disagrees with partial closure of schools
The Health Ministry disagrees with the lockdown regulations closing schools at 1:00 P.M starting Sunday, sources told Haaretz on Thursday.
The Health Ministry had argued that a full closure of all educational institutions should be enforced as part of the lockdown to curb the rise in COVID-19 cases, sources said.
The restrictions on schools were decided on between Prime Minister Netanyahu and ministers in the coronavirus cabinet, but without consulting professionals from the Health and Education Ministries, sources said. (Ido Efrati)
1:45 P.M. Justice minister says courts will remain open during lockdown
Justice Miniter Avi Nissenkorn from Kahol Lavan said on Thursday that courts "will continue work during the lockdown" similar to the previous one in September.
The courts will continue to "guard the institutions of democracy" he said.
In March, the government closed the courts as part of the first lockdown to curb COVID-19 outbreaks, which postponed Prime Minister Netanyahu's trial.
11.55 A.M. Gantz vows to change lockdown restrictions on schools
"The decision to limit the hours of the education system is wrong and I am working to change it. The closure is a result of the Prime Minister's inability to comply with political decisions we made."
As per the restrictions approved on Thursday, Kindergarten, grades 1-4 and 11-12 will study until 13:00 starting Sunday. The rest will switch to remote learning.
9:30 A.M. Coronavirus czar says Israelis should brace for longer lockdown, hopes this will be last
Israel's coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said a two week lockdown is too short and the public should prepare for a longer period of restrictions.
"We wanted to implement what we called 'tightened restraint,'" Ash said during an interview with Kan public radio. "We proposed it to the government early on, at a time that we thought it could help. The government's decision was to wait, due to different considerations – economic, social – and we've reached a point where there's no choice but go on lockdown."
He estimated that given the vaccine rollout, this will be Israel’s last lockdown, “We are tired of lockdowns, all of us, and I hope that we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the way out of this pandemic." (Shira Kadari)
12:18 A.M. Israel officially approves a nationwide lockdown starting Sunday, 5 P.M.
Israel has announced the country will be heading into a two week long lockdown, with the option to extend for another two weeks if the desired drop in cases is not recorded.
The regulations of the lockdown include not travelling more than a kilometer from one's home, as well as forbidding visiting another person's house. All retail is expected to cease, except for delivery services, and the 'green tourism islands' of the Dead Sea and Eilat will close.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz agreed on the new measure in a phone conversation. Other ministers, including Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Education Minister Yoav Galant and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz contributed to the decision making process. (Haaretz)
11:30 P.M. Stores to close, movements restricted under third lockdown beginning Sunday
While the exact length of the new lockdown beginning Sunday is unclear, the expected restrictions will be similar to the country’s second lockdown which took place in September.
The expected restrictions include the closure of stores, entertainment venues, and restaurants, except for food delivery; a ban on traveling over a kilometer from one’s home; a ban on spending time in someone else’s home.
Grades five through ten will not attend classes, while all other grades will end the school day at 1:00 P.M. Gatherings will be limited to 20 people in an open area and 10 in a closed area. Public transportation will allow only half of the usual capacity. Businesses that are allowed to stay open because they are not entered by the public will have to reduce the number of workers present. (Judy Maltz)
11:00 P.M. Netanyahu and Gantz agree on lockdown beginning Sunday
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz agreed late Wednesday night on a coronavirus lockdown to go into effect Sunday at 5:00 P.M.
After the initial lockdown period, there will be an option to extend the lockdown if the infection rate remains high. (Judy Maltz)
10:15 P.M. Cabinet debate over third lockdown expected to continue for hours
While support for a third lockdown appeared to have a majority in Wednesday afternoon’s cabinet meeting on the matter, debate over the decision is expected to continue for several hours following arguments between ministers over a number of issues, including when the lockdown should begin and whether the entire education system should be shut down during it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed the Health Ministry’s proposal to begin the lockdown on Friday, while other ministers demanded that it not begin until Sunday, or in some cases until next Wednesday. Disagreement also arose over whether to allow preschools to continue to operate in towns categorized as “green,” meaning they have a low incidence of the disease. In contrast to previous debates over imposing lockdowns, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz did not rule out the option of a lockdown, but supported the position of Kahol Lavan ministers who called for allowing workplaces that the general public does not enter to remain open. (Judy Maltz)
6:15 P.M. Coronavirus czar recommends 25 day lockdown, starting Friday
Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash recommended a 25 day lockdown, starting Friday, at a government meeting Wednesday meeting. He also recommended that the entire education system close, save for special education programs; that public transportation be reduced by 50 percent; that so-called "green islands" for tourists close; and that commerce and leisure activities also close.
6 P.M. Israel's education minister quarantined after exposure to patient
Education Minister Yoav Galant and members of his staff were ordered to quarantine after coming into contact with an individual last Monday who tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.
Although Galant had been inoculated against the coronavirus roughly 24 hours before last Monday's meeting with the now confirmed coronavirus patient, he has been ordered to quarantine in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, said the Education Ministry in a statement on Wednesday evening. They added that Galant feels well and is not presently experiencing any symptoms. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
5:38 P.M. Four people diagnosed with new strain of coronavirus in Israel
Four people in Israel have been diagnosed with a new strain of the coronavirus, Israel's health minister said Wednesday.
According to the Health Ministry, three of the four had recently arrived in Israel from the United Kingdom, where the new mutation of the virus had recently been discovered. The ministry added that the three patients are in isolation in quarantine hotels.
A fourth case had been discovered in an Israeli who had not been abroad recently. The Health Ministry said they are investigating the case and will update accordingly.
"Over the past few days we are making a concerted effort to check that the mutation from Britain has not infiltrated [Israel]. Until several minutes ago, we had been optimistic, and now we are less optimistic," Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "At the moment we must assume that the virus is spreading here. The good news, at least, is based on the assessments of the companies that are supplying us with vaccines. These vaccines have a high probability, though it's not yet decisive, of working [for this mutation]. We'll know in a few days." Netanyahu added, "It only strengthens what we are currently talking about. We must do two things at once: We must have a very quick vaccine drive, the fastest in the world, alongside new restrictions." (Judy Maltz)
5:25 P.M. Netanyahu says we must "act immediately," the third wave of the coronavirus has arrived
Speaking at a government meeting on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the third wave of the coronavirus has hit the world and warned that infection and death will rise sharply if "we do not act immediately." He also noted that although Israel is "leading the world" in terms of the pace at which it is importing vaccines, the virus replicates, but vaccines do not. (Judy Maltz)
5:15 P.M. Mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals to go into effect at 10 P.M.
Beginning at 10 P.M., all those arriving in Israel will be required to quarantine, irrespective of the country of origin – either in COVID-19 hotels or at home, the Health Ministry said Wednesday afternoon.
Whether one can quarantine at home instead of at the COVID-19 hotels will be decided by an exceptions committee seated at the airport. The committee will make so-called humanitarian exemptions for certain individuals, including senior citizens, unaccompanied minors, women in advanced stages of pregnancy, and those who require special medical care. (Haaretz)
3:30 P.M. Contact tracing chief resigns over 'unprofessional conduct'
The Health Ministry's official who is responsible for contact tracing, Liora Valinsky, announced her resignation Wednesday, accusing the military's Home Front Command that is conducting epidemiological investigations of unprofessional conduct.
"Suddenly, the military is an expert in contact tracing although they have no knowledge or education in the subject," wrote Valinsky in her resignation letter, "I tried with all my might to change decisions that I believe were taken unprofessionally and without a full understanding of their consequences."
Her resignation did not surprise some within the Health Ministry, as several professionals within the ministry have been very vocal with their criticism of the way the appartus in charge of breaking the chain of infection has been operating. (Ido Efrati)
11:25 A.M. Judge in Netanyahu case contracts COVID
Jerusalem District Court Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman, head of the judges panel in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial, tests positive for coronavirus. (Netael Bandel)
10:50 A.M. Health Ministry recommends lockdown
Amid a rise in infection rates in Israel, the Health Ministry will recommend a three week lockdown to go into effect in the coming days. The recommendation, which will be submitted to the government later on Wednesday, includes movement restrictions and the closing of schools. (Ido Efrati)
10:45 A.M. 45,000 Israelis vaccinated Tuesday
Since the vaccine rollout began in Israel on Sunday, 75,000 people have been vaccinated. Of these, 45,000 were vaccinated on Tuesday.
"The demand is insane, we will ramp up the rate of vaccination," said Health Minsiter Yuli Edelstein. (Ido Efrati)
9:46 A.M. Israel should go into lockdown this weekend, pandemic czar says
The government is expected to convene on Wednesday at 12:30 P.M. to deliberate whether to lock Israel down for a third time since the onset of the pandemic, or shut down commerce in what has been dubbed "tightened restraint" by some ministers.
Israel's COVID czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said on Wednesday morning that as far as he's concerned, Israel should go into lockdown this coming weekend.
"We have more than 500 patients in harsh condition, it's very disturbing and it calls for immediate action," Ash said on Israeli public radio, estimating that the number will reach 800 in two weeks time. "The health system can take bigger numbers, but it's human lives," he said, and added that his recommendation would be a lockdown similar to the one in September. "A clear and decisive step, and so it'll also be as short as possible," he said. (Haaretz)
10:34 P.M. More than 70,000 already got vaccinated, health minister says
Health Ministry Yuli Edelstien said 71,876 people already got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, three days into Israel's inoculation campaign.
"This is just the beginning," Edelstein said, urging more people to get the vaccine. At this stage, the campaign is limited to health workers and people considered at a greater risk, such as senior citizens. (Haaretz)
10:30 P.M. Ministers to debate lockdown on Wednesday
The cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday at 2:30 P.M., and ministers are expected to decide beteween tighter restrictions and a full lockdown, as the rate of infection across Israel keeps rising. (Judy Maltz)
2:04 P.M. Assisted living home staff to be vaccinated
Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv will inoculate the tenants and staff of assisted living facilities in Tel Aviv. This is a large campaign that will cover about 40 facilities in the city, covering about 8,000 people and a total of about 16,000 vaccines. Ichilov staff will deploy a large contingent of nursing staff to visit each facility at least four times during the campaign. (Bar Peleg)
1:33 P.M. Controversy erupts over how coronavirus patients will vote in potential election
During the reading of the Law to Dissolve the Knesset, a disagreement erupted regarding how coronavirus patients would cast their vote in an upcoming election, stemming from fears of passing on the virus, scaring off healthy voters or the spreading of fake news.
According to the bill, the central elections committee chairperson will determine how the vote would be carried out.
Israel’s Director of Public Health Dr. Sharon Elrai Price said that there’s no way coronavirus patients should leave their home to cast their ballot.
“You’re talking about tens of thousands of sick people that are going out to vote, and that’s a public health hazard,” Elrai Price said. (Jonathan Lis)
1:20 P.M. Israeli Health Minister says a lockdown is the only way to stop COVID-19 spread
Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday that there’s no other way to reduce coronavirus infections other than a lockdown.
Edelstein made these comments at the launch of the 'protecting our parents' vaccination campaign.
“We’ve wasted precious time. We missed the ‘tightened restrictions’ train,” Edelstein said. (Ido Efrati)
11:30 A.M. Knesset approves mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals
The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the cabinet's mandated quarantine in COVID-19 hotels to all returning Israelis on Tuesday morning. The regulation will come into force on Wednesday at 10 P.M. and will be in place until January 1, 2021.
These decisions were made in an effort to block a new strain of the coronavirus that has appeared in the United Kingdom from entering Israel.
Those requiring hotel quarantine can shorten the period to 10 days if they take two coronavirus tests that come out negative – one upon entering Israel and the other after nine days. If space at the hotels fills up, there will be priorities set for who must stay there and who will be assigned home quarantine. These new regulations will be in place for 10 days. (Ido Efrati)
9:05 A.M. Coronavirus czar says lockdown possible as cases rise
In an interview with Army Radio, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said that action must be taken immediately to keep the number of new cases, which reached about 3,500 Monday, from rising further.
"I believe the decision will be made today, or tomorrow at the latest, we discuss it every day," Ash said. "There's uncertainty regarding which steps to take, whether to adopt our primary recommendation for tightened restrictions or to go for something more severe like a lockdown. A lockdown is definitely one of the options on the table, in light of the rise in numbers and in light of the delayed decisions. It could very much be the best move right now."
How long the lockdown would last depends on how strict it would be, Ash said. "If we go with tightened restrictions, it'll take five weeks to significantly lower the number of diagnoses. A full lockdown would take less time – I estimate that a lockdown, as of today, would last about three weeks."
8:15 A.M. After a lull, Israel's ultra-Orthodox are hit with high infection rates
Despite having a higher rate of confirmed cases and deaths than the population at large throughout the first and second waves, Israel's ultra -Orthodox community was actually presenting the lowest rate of morbidity in the country for a six-week period.
Haredi cities remained “green” for long periods and some started to believe that the community, in addition to observing the social distancing rules, had reached some level of herd immunity.
But all that is changing, and rapidly. In the Haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem where the average number of new daily cases was 20, there are now nearly 200 a day. The weekly ratio of positive tests in those neighborhoods, which three weeks ago was around 3 percent, has reached 12 percent. In Bnei Brak the ratio of positive tests two weeks ago was 3 percent; now it is 10 percent.
Moshe Morgenstern, who holds the health portfolio for the Bnei Brak municipality, told Haaretz that the city realizes that this new wave will probably be much worse than the previous two. “The infection coefficient (average number of people each carrier infects) here is two. We never had that during the two previous waves,” he said. “If this continues this way we will have an enormous number of sick people here in a few days.” (Aaron Rabinowitz)
9:38 P.M. Israel to bar foreigners, quarantine returning Israelis in COVID hotels
Israel will bar entry to foreign nationals and mandate a quarantine in a designated COVID hotel for all Israelis returning from abroad. This policy will go into effect on Wednesday at 10:00 P.M..
Passengers returning from all countries will quarantine either for 14 days or for 10 days if they twice test negative for coronavirus.
"I've asked to convene the cabinet for one purpose, and that is to close the sky," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the meeting. Netanyahu addressed the new strain of the coronavirus that was found in the U.K., saying that "The mutation is spreading rapidly in many countries, and it is clear to us that we are at the onset of a very fast outbreak." (Judy Maltz)
8:18 P.M. In two-month high, 5.1 percent of tests return positive
5.1 percent of coronavirus tests conducted on Monday returned a positive result, in the highest figure since October 14. With some 3,500 new cases, the total number of active cases in Israel is at 26,275.
842 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, with 463 of them in serious condition and 115 on life support. 3,111 patients have died so far. (Haaretz)
8:00 P.M. Thousands inoculated on first day of vaccine rollout
Some 11,000 Israelis were vaccinated against coronavirus on Monday, the first day that vaccines were available through the public healthcare system to people over 60. Over a quarter million people have been summoned for vaccinations, which are not mandatory in Israel. In addition, 15,000 health workers were vaccinated since Sunday. (Ido Efrati)
5:30 P.M. Gantz in isolation after lawmaker tests positive
Defense Minister Benny Gantz will self-isolate for the rest of the week because he met last Thursday with lawmaker Hila Shay Vazan, who announced she tested positive for COVID-19. Gantz's office said he tested for COVID-19 on Monday and will test again before the end of the quarantine period.
Two other Knesset lawmakers are currently infected: David Bitan from Likud and Yaakov Asher from United Torah Judaism. (Chaim Levinson)
11:30 A.M. Health Ministry: 10,000 medical staff received COVID-19 vaccine Sunday
Israel’s Health Ministry said on Monday that approximately 10,000 medical staff were inoculated against the coronavirus on Sunday, as the national rollout of the vaccine began.
In the coming days, the country’s health maintenance organizations are expected to increase the rate of vaccinations, with inoculations already underway for at-risk groups and those over 60. The ministry also announced that data on daily vaccinations will also be updated on their website.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein celebrated the start of the vaccination campaign, and noted that 200,000 more appointments have been made for the vaccination. “I call on everyone over the age of 60: go get vaccinated, this is the only way to fight coronavirus,” he added. (Ido Efrati)
9:30 A.M. Israel to discuss sending all arrivals into quarantine
The coronavirus cabinet will decide Monday whether Israelis returning from abroad will be required to quarantine for a fortnight in government facilities.
This would expand on the the cabinet’s decision on Sunday to send Israelis arriving from the U.K., South Africa, and Denmark into quarantine.
"I've asked to convene the cabinet for one purpose, and that is to close the sky," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the meeting. Netanyahu addressed the new strain of the coronavirus that was found in the U.K., saying that "The mutation is spreading rapidly in many countries, and it is clear to us that we are at the onset of a very fast outbreak."
The coronavirus cabinet will also discuss barring all foreigners from entering the country. Israel's National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat suggested that all Israelis returning to Israel after Wednesday be mandated to quarantine for 14 days, or 10 if they agree to take two COVID tests: One upon landing, and another nine days after.
Since March, foreigners have not been allowed to enter the country, unless they meet certain criteria, but the cabinet is looking to apply the broader restrictions against non-citizens. At present, the list includes foreigners married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents, minors with Israelis parents or foreign parents of Israeli minors, diplomats, yeshiva students, cultural and sporting figures, some workers in key industries, and more. (Judy Maltz)
9:08 A.M. Israel's vaccination campaign begins
Israel's COVID-19 vaccination campaign has begun on Monday, with some 170,000 Israelis having already scheduled appointments to receive the coronavirus vaccine, while others tried but were unable to do so because the health maintenance organizations’ hotlines were too busy.
The vaccination campaign for the general public officially kicks off on Monday. On Sunday, thousands of medical staffers were vaccinated.
Prof. Ehud Davidson, CEO of the Clalit HMO, said Clalit vaccinated 1,300 people on Sunday and has scheduled appointments for around 90,000 people. Ran Saar, CEO of Maccabi, said his HMO has scheduled appointments for 50,000 people.
Meuhedet CEO Sigal Rosenberg said her HMO has scheduled 23,000 appointments. She said it will be able to vaccinate 4,000 people a day this week and 10,000 a day as of next week. Leumit CEO Haim Fernandes said his HMO vaccinated hundreds of people on Sunday, and that demand for appointments has exceeded supply.
The Health Ministry has promised there will be no shortage of vaccines. Ministry Director General Chezy Levy said the HMOs will be informed if that changes, but until then, they should schedule appointments freely. (Ido Efrati) Read the full report here.
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