Israel Breaks Daily Coronavirus Infections Record With 9,200 New Cases

Netanyahu seeks emergency powers to curb protests; Attorney general, Gantz object ■ Israel sees 59 COVID-19 deaths in one day

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Residents of Jerusalem wearing masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, during a second nationwide lockdown, September 25, 2020.
Residents of Jerusalem wearing masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, during a second nationwide lockdown, September 25, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
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Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are dealing with a renewed coronavirus outbreak, leading to proposals and measures intended to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Special Haaretz briefing: How Israel’s COVID failure led to a second national lockdown

Israel currently has 68,586 active cases; 1,439 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 11,425 active cases and 291 deaths, and in Gaza 1,825 active cases and 17 deaths.

LIVE UPDATES

9:13 A.M. Serious cases decline slightly

Israel’s Health Ministry reported a slight decrease in the number of coronavirus patients in serious condition, down to 719 from 728 on Saturday night. Of those, 199 are on life support.

In total, Israel has 229,148 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak, with 68,586 of them active.

The number of deaths has been revised down, and now stands at 1,439, after two deaths were apparently erroneously attributed to COVID-19. (Ido Efrati)

SATURDAY

11:30 P.M. Government won't vote to include limits on protests as part of emergency regulations

The government will not vote to include limiting public protests as part of emergency coronavirus regulations, in light of opposition from its main coalition partner, Kahol Lavan, as well as the attorney general and the Health Ministry's legal adviser.

Netanyahu's intent to curtail demonstrations with the use of emergency regulations surfaced on Friday after the Knesset failed to pass an amendment to legislation on coronavirus restrictions that would have allowed the government to substantially curb demonstrations. Sources in Kahol Lavan said on Friday that the vote to approve the restrictions was delayed because Likud lawmakers stalled deliberations.

Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi of Likud told Kan Public Broadcaster that there’s a possibility Netanyahu will advance the idea of restricting protests via emergency regulations, despite the opposition of the attorney general and Kahol Lavan.

“I support the legislation, but not the emergency regulations. The emergency regulations are fine for days when the Knesset isn’t in session,” Hanegbi said. “I think that legislation is the right step. The Knesset will pass the law on Tuesday. At least when there’ a law it will be clear and they can’t accuse us of sleight of hand. We will not pass it this way (via emergency regulations). We will bring it to the Knesset on Tuesday, the process has already begun.” (Chaim Levinson)

11:00 P.M. Death toll rises by 29, daily new cases rise to 9,201

The country's coronavirus death toll has risen to 1,441, an increase of 29 since Friday, according to new Health Ministry figures. The number of active cases has risen to 68,122, with 9,201 new cases being diagnosed since Friday. (Haaretz)

10:15 P.M. Police officer injured during coronavirus enforcement operation in East Jerusalem

Police officers tried to apprehend an individual that was not wearing a mask and refused to identify himself on Saturday night in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. 

This led to clashes with the suspects and several other individuals, a police statement said, during which a stone was thrown and hit a police officer in the head. He was referred to a hospital for further treatment. 

The search for those suspected to have taken part in the incident is ongoing, police added. (Nir Hasson)

LISTEN: How COVID killed Bibi’s legacy and resurrected his archrival

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10:01 P.M. In video message, Netanyahu admits to 'premature' decision to reopen, blasts Knesset for not approving the government's decisions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed via a video statement on Saturday the criticism levied against the government for its handling of the coronavirus crisis, and admitted that Israel opened event halls and its education system too early.

"Our decision to open banquet halls was premature. Perhaps also the decision to reopen all schools," he said, but also censured his detractors. "The populist decisions in the Knesset to annul all of the restrictions we imposed, the government, after we saw the morbidity rate go up – completely wrong."

Before concluding, Netanyahu asked viewers who intend to attend synagogues during Yom Kippur to avoid them this year, "as the rabbis requested."

"As the Prime Minister of Israel who prays at a synagogue in every Yom Kippur: Don't go this year. Pray outside, and stay safe." (Haaretz

8:49 P.M. Israel breaks daily infections record with over 8,500 new cases, number of severe patients climbs

A total of 8,687 new infections were diagnosed since midnight, according to data from the Health Ministry. The number of active cases is 67,628, bringing the overall number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak to 226,586.

There are currently 728 severely ill patients, 200 of which are on ventilators, which breaks Friday's record by 20 and 22 respectively.

Five more people have died, bringing the total to 1,417. (Haaretz) 

7:25 P.M. Hundreds of Haredim enter isolation ahead of Yom Kippur holiday

Several hundred members of the ultra-Orthodox community have been quarantined in religious schools that were retrofitted as coronavirus isolation facilities in recent days.

The measure was taken in order to prevent them from returning home and potentially infecting their families on the Yom Kippur holiday. 

Some have raised concerns that security in these institutions is not as strict as in other so-called "coronavirus hotel," as the management of these yeshivas is left to the community's leadership.

IDF Central Command chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Roni Numa, who oversees the military's coronavirus response within the Haredi community expressed confidence in the religious leadership.

"They know exactly who is sick and they bring them in an orderly manner, according to the guidelines," Numa said. (Bar Peleg)

3:20 P.M. Organizers call for vehicle caravan, socially-distanced protests in Jerusalem

A group of organizations released a message saying a convoy of vehicles will converge on Jerusalem on Saturday night, amid talks of making the protests illegal under lockdown regulations. 

The organizers say they were expecting 3,000 vehicles to assemble outside the city, and then drive together to Balfour Street, where the prime minister's official residence is located. Gonen Yitzhak, from the Crime Minister movement, enjoined Jerusalem Police District Commander Doron Yadid to lift all checkpoints for protesters to go through. 

"He is obsessed with demonstrations in Balfour Street, because they expose the lies he is trying to hide and the fact that he has abandoned the citizens of Israel," a statement read, referring to Netanyahu's attempts to curb the protests under coronavirus rules. (Bar Peleg)

FRIDAY

5:20 P.M. Serious cases, patients on life support break new records

According to Health Ministry data, there have been 217,899 coronavirus cases diagnosed in Israel since the pandemic started. Of those, there are 708 patients in serious condition and 178 on ventilators, both record numbers since the start of the outbreak.

The ministry said that 8,178 people were diagnosed yesterday, or 14.4 percent out of 66,640 test results received, also a new record for Israel.

Seven people have died of the disease since this morning, bringing the national death toll to 1,412.

5:06 P.M. Public transport to be reduced during lockdown 

As part of the intensified lockdown, public transportation will operate on a reduced schedule. The Transportation Ministry said that essential services will still be provided for essential workers and those who need to get to medical centers.

Services inside the cities will continue to run, but on a reduced basis, and only the main routes will be fully operational. On weekdays, service will run until 8:00 P.M., and intercity routes will not operate on weekends.

City buses will run on a reduced basis on Fridays and Saturday nights after Shabbat. On Saturday night buses will only operate until 10:00 P.M. (TheMarkerRead the full report here.

4:14 P.M. Data shows sharp spike in ultra-Orthodox COVID-19 hospitalizations

Ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak are experiencing a sharp spike in hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

According to data acquired by Haaretz, Bnei Brak has experienced a 100 percent increase in hospitalizations – from 22 four days ago to 44 as of this morning. Jerusalem's Haredi neighborhoods have seen a 27 percent increase in the past two days alone, from 51 to 65.

In Jerusalem, 41 percent of its 158 hospitalized coronavirus patients are residents of Haredi neighborhoods. The city recorded a record 972 new diagnoses in 24 hours, of which 54 percent are from Haredi neighborhoods, 26 percent from general and mixed neighborhoods, and 10 percent are from East Jerusalem. There are 100 coronavirus carriers per 10,000 residents in the city's Haredi neighborhoods, as opposed to 50 per 10,000 in general and mixed neighborhoods, and 35 per 10,000 in East Jerusalem – a decline in the hard-hit Arab neighborhoods.

 In Bnei Brak, the municipality began a broad and aggressive campaign called "Our hands haven't washed off this blood," in which they are putting up notices around the city and sending out recordings to residents telling them that one in 10 coronavirus patients over the age of 70 will die of the disease. (Aaron Rabinovich)

2:40 P.M. Protest groups to hold socially distanced protests

Several groups from the anti-Netanyahu protest bloc sent out a message to followers explaining that they would hold Saturday's anti-Netanyahu protests in a different form than they have for the past 13 weeks.

Organizations condemned Netanyahu's attempts to limit the right to protest; the statement said they would quell the in-person protests, "so as not to give excuses to the failing Netanyahu government."

The organizers said they would instead form a protest convoy that would make its way to Balfour street in Jerusalem, and would demonstrators would hold socially-distanced protests there while following Health Ministry regulations. They also encouraged citizens to protest in small groups near their homes, in accordance with the lockdown restrictions.

The protest organizers emphasized that exercising the right to protest is a "moral obligation" in a time of national emergency, and called on all citizens to join them in protesting in a socially distanced manner. (Bar Peleg)

2:00 P.M. Intensified lockdown restrictions take effect

The new restrictions, which were presented by the inter-ministerial coronavirus cabinet, were approved by the government on Thursday before being brought to the Knesset.

Citizens are limited to a one kilometer radius of their homes (about .6 miles), and all non-essential businesses are closed.

The major change from the previous restrictions is that all staff working in the private sector will be ordered to stay home, except those employed by essential businesses, such as pharmacies and supermarkets, and stores that sell hygiene products. Previously, businesses not serving customers in-person were still able to operate with a reduced workforce.

Synagogues will remain open for Yom Kippur, under strict social distancing conditions.

The matter of protests has yet to be resolved. A law limiting protests is still being debated in the Knesset, with no consensus. Netanyahu is attempting to push through emergency measures, which would prohibit all gatherings – including both protests and prayers – until the Knesset can reconvene on Tuesday.

The restrictions will be in effect until after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which ends on October 11, with an option to extend it. (Haaretz)

1:45 P.M. Likud calls on Kahol Lavan and attorney general to support emergency measures

In response to Kahol Lavan's intention to block the state of emergency measures, which will crack down on protests, Likud said in a statement that "The law cannot pass in the Knesset today with 4,000 ammendments by an opposition that is acting irresponsibly during a time of national emergency. This is happening because of the opposition's obsession with the festival they call 'protests.'"

It added, "We call on Kahol Lavan and the attorney general to take responsibility and immediately approve emergence measures to save the lives of many Israelis." (Chaim Levinson and Jonathan Lis)

1:23 P.M. Health Minister to present state of emergency to government for approval, Kahol Lavan intends to block

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein will ask the government to approve measures for a state of emergency Friday. These measures will forbid all gatherings until the Knesset passes a law next week. 

Edelstein says that his decision was made in light of professional medical opinions stating that gatherings are a danger to public health and the fact that the Knesset will not settle the matter on Friday.

"I'm looking after the health of the public. I won't allow lives to be risked at any gathering, not at protests and not in synagogues," Edelstein said.

A source in Kahol Lavan, whose votes in the government are necessary to pass the emergency measures, said they would not support the proposal.

"Likud is blocking the approval of the law that will ensure a safe and necessary lockdown, while ignoring the government consensus. Likud's Knesset representatives, led by Miki Zohar under the instruction of the prime minister... has turned this into an obsessive discussion of the protests. We won't allow emergency measures to pass in the government," the source said. (Chaim Levinson and Jonathan Lis)

1:20 P.M. Yamina leader says she supports Likud initiative to curb protests

Leader of the right-wing opposition Yamina party, Ayelet Shaked, said she would support a Likud initiative to limit gatherings for protests. Shaked said she supports limiting protests during both a full lockdown, like the one to take effect today, and also during a more lenient partial lockdown. (Jonathan Lis)

12:30 P.M. Labor chairman says he will not support emergency measures to limit protests

In a meeting with members of Kahol Lavan, Economy and Welfare Minister Amir Peretz of Labor said "We won't allow any parliamentary trick that will expand restrictions on protests. Any attempt to disturb the balance established by the government to protect prayers, which belong to all of us, and protests, which are the lifebreath of democracy, will not pass." (Jonathan Lis)

12:00 P.M. Convoys across Israel set out to protest use of emergency measures to limit demonstrations

Hundreds of people in some 20 protest convoys have set out from various locations across Israel to demonstrate against Netanyahu's intention to use emergency measures to limit protests. Some of the convoys will make their way toward Netanyahu's private home in Caesarea.

The Black Flag movement sent out a message to followers, which said, "Netanyahu is the worst manager in the history of our country. Instead of handling the coronavirus he's trying to wipe out his detractors, and at this too, like with everything he does, he will fail." (Bar Peleg and Noa Shpigel)

11:50 A.M. Israel's attorney general opposes limiting protests through emergency measures, says High Court will reject it

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit opposes limiting protests through emergency measures. During the overnight debate, Mendelblit was alerted that the Likud intended to limit protests by declaring a state of emergency.

Mendelblit spoke to Netanyahu Friday morning, in a conversation that included the head of the National Security Council, and explained his objections.

Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri, who is responsible for matters relating to the coronavirus, clarified that as long as there is a functioning Knesset, emergency measures cannot be used to circumvent it. He noted the High Court had previously ruled that the use of emergency measures is only for an emergency situation during which it is objectively impossible to pass legislation. 

Sources in Mendelblit's office say that declaring a state of emergency as a solution to a political struggle within the coalition will be struck down by the High Court. (Netael Bandel

11:35 A.M. Israel sees 59 COVID-19 deaths in one day.

The Health Ministry has announced 59 people have passed away from coronavirus since Thursday morning.

This represents a significant jump in the daily fatality rate, with the total deaths reaching 1,405. (Haaretz)

11:20 A.M. Gantz says his party will oppose declaring state of emergency to limit protests

Sources in Kahol Lavan said that they will not aid in Netanyahu's attempts to curb protests and that the party will oppose the declaration of a state of emergency.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told party members that they will not allow the protests to be limited through emergency measures. "The decision on the intensified lockdown is meant to curb the pandemic and not to block the right to protest or pray. We will continue in the framework of the democratic process of legislation, and avoid use of emergency measures, which are targeted solely at the protests, prayers or any other matter."

Sources added that they are ready to continue debates on the legislation on Saturday evening. (Jonathan Lis)

11:00 A.M. Netanyahu seeks state of emergency to curb protests, after Knesset fails to pass measure

Given the difficulty passing regulations to curb anti-Netanyahu protests through the Knesset, Netanyahu plans to declare a state of emergency in an attempt to prevent a mass protest from taking place on Saturday outside his official residence.

Legal advisors in the Prime Minister's Office are working on a draft of emergency measures that will almost completely eradicate the protest scheduled for Saturday night on Balfour street. 

The emergency measures will be in effect until Tuesday, in the hope that the law will pass by then.

Netanyahu claims that if a mass protest takes place at Balfour on Saturday, it will encourage thousands to flout regulations on Yom Kippur in order to hold mass prayer ceremonies (Chaim Levinson)

10:00 A.M. Knesset committee remains deadlocked over curbing protests under coronavirus lockdown

The Knesset legislative committee is continuing marathon debates that began Thursday night over limiting protests under the new lockdown regulations, which are set to take effect at 2 P.M. Friday. The Knesset has yet to approve the addition to the regulations that would limit protests.

Amid the debate, Coalition Whip Miki Zohar told lawmakers, "We cannot pass this law without the full cooperation of the opposition." Zohar said, "I claimed two days ago that there are some who want the protests to continue in order to drive up the infection rate."

Several lawmakers traded insults.

"I'm going to go to the government and try to advance a state of emergency, which they must approve within four days. If the High Court shoots down the legislation, we will be in a tragedy we couldn't even imagine," Zohar said.

Yoav Segalovitz of Yesh Atid-Telem pointed out that the current disagreement pertains only to the protests and the other regulations will take effect at 2 P.M. as planned. "The coalition whip is king of slime, casting ridiculous dogmatic blame. The fact is that the lockdown is not dependent on the law before us. To say such a thing is wrong and in vain. It only confuses the public. The lockdown will go into effect at 2 P.M. and the economy will shut down," he said. (Jonathan Lis)

7:30 A.M. Rate of daily coronavirus infections slows down

Active coronavirus cases fell by 110 to 60,786 from midnight, with 669 in a serious condition and 167 on ventillators, the Ministry of Health has reported Friday morning.

Israel has witnessed a 2,343 jump in coronavirus cases since Thursday evening, bringing the total up to 214,458.

The overall death toll stands at 1,378. 

THURSDAY

10:11 P.M. Opposition leader slams Netanyahu over full lockdown

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him for leading Israel into a second full lockdown.

"The reason for this lockdown is the politically-motivated, sloppy, hysterical mismanagement by this government and the man who heads it." Lapid added that "All the professionals involved opposed imposing the lockdown. Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu opposed it, as well as Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Itamar Grotto and the Finance Ministry. They were all silenced."

The opposition leader noted that Israel is entering the lockdown with no plan at hand, and "without even setting objectives." Lapid vowed to obey the restrictions on protests, even though they stem from ulterior motives, according to Lapid.   

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of Kahol Lavan commented on the premier's earlier comments that the protests are coronavirus and anarchy incubators. Nissenkorn said that "it's disgraceful to see that even this evening, Netanyahu chooses to continue his incitement against the protesters.

Nissenkorn added that Kahol Lavan is leading a responsible campaign of solidarity, while Netanyahu keeps dividing the public to serve his political needs." (Jonathan Lis)

21:57 P.M. Some 2,000 protest in front of Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence

Some 2,000 people gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem, calling on him to resign.  

Organizers asked demonstrators to maintain social distancing and follow restrictions. (Lee Yaron)

9:15 P.M. Netanyahu, announcing stricter lockdown, slams ‘destructive, anarchist’ protests

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called claims that he sought to impose a full lockdown on the country in order to curtail protests against him "absurd," and stressed that the purpose of the lockdown was to save lives.

Answering a question on the topic after a statement to the media, Netanyahu said "These bizarre protests against me not only don't harm me, they aid me politically," adding that they were only hurting the public's trust. "It eats away at the public's discipline; it's a coronavirus and anarchy incubator. It's the worst infringement against the public." 

Netanyahu said that he does not care whether protests against him are held. "They can demonstrate on Balfour Street if they want to, they can demonstrate in capsules."

The premier added that the "notion that everyone can violate the lockdown, travel everywhere and claim they are protesters is one of the most destructive things in Israel. This phenomenon, on this scale, hasn't been seen anywhere else in the world. (Jonathan Lis)

8:29 P.M. Gantz says 'incitement shouldn't lead to defeat'

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz delivered a special statement, urging the public "not to allow the incitement led by those interested in Israel’s defeat in the battle against the coronavirus.”

Gantz said the battle is not between the protesters and the religious public, referring to the friction caused over the issue of tightening lockdown restrictions. "This virus doesn’t attack only Haredim or Arabs, this has nothing to do with the right or the left. When a protester shows understanding for a worshiper and vice versa, both of them will help to beat the virus."

Gantz also criticized the decision to open the economy after the first lockdown in March, saying it should have been done gradually, adding that the "decision to delegate the authority over breaking infection chains to the army came too late." (Haaretz)        

8:13 P.M. Pandemic czar 'nauseated' by Netanyahu's decision on full lockdown, report says

Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to impose a full lockdown is "miserable," according to a report by Channel 13.

"It's disgusting, I have to take some anti-nausea pills, it's unprecedented," Gamzu reportedly said.

The report quoted Gamzu as saying that "everything started when legal opinions said protests cannot be prevented. Netanyahu then said: 'If everyone is home and the entire economy is shut down, so why can't we prevent demonstrations?'"

It was also reported that Gamzu said the night before the government decided on a full lockdown that "We talked about [shutting down] only part of the economy. We were shocked in the morning by the change in [Netanyahu's] stance." (Haaretz)

7:49 P.M. Forty-one Israelis have died since Wednesday night

The Health Ministry said that 41 more Israelis have died from the virus since Wednesday evening, raising the total COVID-19 death toll to 1,376.

In addition, 4,945 people have tested positive since Wednesday night, data shows. The number of hospitalized patients stands at 1,367, out of which 685 are in serious condition – an increase of 28 since last night. Currently, 175 patients are on ventilators.

The ministry added that 56,307 coronavirus tests were conducted on Wednesday, with the rate of positive tests standing at 9.99 percent (Haaretz) 

7:29 P.M. In joint statement, anti-gov't protest leaders slam Netanyahu

The leaders of several anti-gov't protest groups released a joint statement, blasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for seeking a full lockdown to curb the pandemic.

"Contrary to the stance of professionals and Health Ministry officials, Netanyahu insists on imposing a full lockdown on an entire country, which experts estimate will result in 35 billion shekels in damages. It will devastate the economy and lead to a total catastrophe, from which it is unclear if we could ever recover," the statement said.

"It is truly regretful that the protesters are the only ones prepared to fight for Israel's citizens, while lawmakers remain silent and serve as a rubber stamp. You are responsible for this insanity," the statement added. (Bar Peleg)            

7:08 P.M. Police won't allow 'purposeless' protests during lockdown, top officer says

The head of the police's operations department, Commander Yishai Shalem, said Thursday that 'protests with no real purpose, but to violate the law will be dealt with."

Following a government decision, Israel will enter a full lockdown starting Friday at 2 P.M.

Shalem added that the "police are experienced enough to know whether a protest is real, which we will allow. But in cases of defiance, we won’t show tolerance." He, however, admitted the situation "right now is extremely uncertain and unclear."

Shalem also said that the police will enforce the order to wear masks during protests, as well as the prohibition to smoke or eat while demonstrating.

Referring to group worship, Shalem said it is "a very sensitive issue and we are fully aware of it. We'll act with understanding and I truly hope that we won't be required to deal with severe and blatant regulations of the lockdown restrictions." (Josh Breiner)          

6:27 P.M. Coronavirus law amendment allows gov't to significantly limit protests

The amendment to the coronavirus law, which will be brought to the Knesset’s vote Thursday night, authorizes the cabinet to impose significant restrictions on holding demonstrations as part of the fight against the virus.

The precise restrictions, which were not stipulated by the law, will be determined tonight and passed to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for approval.

The amendment authorizes the cabinet to impose any restriction it wishes on gathering at a demonstration or a religious ceremony, providing it’s crucial to prevent the spread of the virus.

It also enables the cabinet for the first time to prevent an individual’s participation in a demonstration if the gathering is held further away than the distance citizens are allowed to travel away from their homes.

The law’s previous version did not permit the cabinet to prevent people from going to and taking part in demonstrations during lockdown, but enabled it to impose certain restrictions like maintaining distance as a condition to holding the demonstration. The law also forbade the cabinet to stop people living in a “restricted area” from going out and demonstrating in their city, without distance limitations, if leaving the city had been defined as a risk to spreading the disease.

A legal opinion submitted to the Knesset by the Israel Democracy Institute points out that the cabinet hardly used the powers it had been given by the existing law to restrict rallies.

 “Such an extreme measure in a democracy must show clear evidence linking the demonstrations to a rise in infection rates and that the health interest could not have been ensured in less injurious ways. Such evidence has never been shown the public or the Knesset,” wrote Professors Yuval Shani and Mordechai Kremnitzer [Full disclosure: An Haaretz legal analyst] and Dr. Amir Fuchs in the opinion. (Jonathan Lis)

5:40 P.M. Gantz to deliver special statement at 8:15 P.M.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will address the nation at 8:15 P.M. and deliver a special statement following the government's decision to impose full lockdown starting Friday as Israel battles to reduce spiking infection rates. (Jonathan Lis)

3:18 P.M. Israel registers over 850,000 jobseekers since March

Since the coronavirus erupted in Israel, 854,367 jobseekers have registered with Israel's National Employment Service, out of which 522,199 have been furloughed.

Since September 17, a day before the current lockdown went into effect, 120,752 new jobseekers registered with the service, out of which 110,652 were put on unpaid leave. For 93,766 Israelis, this is the second time they register as jobseekers since the pandemic started.  

Out of the 93,766 people who registered with the employment service over the past week and at least twice since March, 70 percent are women and only 30 percent are men. (Sivan Klingbail) 

1:05 P.M. Technology minister mulls resigning over lockdown

Science, Technology and Space Minister Izhar Shay, of Kahol Lavan, will be meeting with party chairman Benny Gantz to decide whether he should resign in protest of the lockdown. Shay voted against the new restrictions this morning. (Chaim Levinson)

12:38 P.M. Netanyahu tells coronavirus czar, who opposed full lockdown, that PM was '100 percent right' not to listen to professionals

At the government meeting this morning, Coronavirus Czar Ronni Gamzu said that he opposes shutting down the market beyond 50 percent. Netanyahu abruptly hushed him and said that "In my whole career, there were many situations in which I did not listen to professionals and I was 100 percent right." (Chaim Levinson)

12:11 P.M. Coronavirus czar: I recommended not shutting the country down, the government decided otherwise

Coronavirus Czar Ronni Gamzu told Kan Public Broadcaster that he did not recommend the government enact a full lockdown of the entire private sector, but rather tighten the existing one.

"Regarding the lockdown, I recommended tightening the lockdown and not shutting down the entire country. The government decided otherwise, and I respect that. When it comes to stopping infection," he said, "of course shutting down more means stopping it more."

It is the government's authority to make these decisions, Gamzu said, even though the economic cost is enormous.

"It does send a message to the public – if the government gets to a point where it is establishing such a hermetic closure on all trade, on the entire economy, then it seems that infection is truly widespread. The bottom line is that I recommended otherwise, the government made a different decision."

11:56 A.M. Coalition whip calls to dissolve government if protests allowed

On the heels of his comments that anti-Netanyahu protesters are "secretly happy" to see an increased infection rate, coalition whip Miki Zohar said that the "government must be immediately dissolved" if the demonstrations are allowed to continue.

"If Kahol Lavan surrenders to the demands of the Black Flags [protest group] and allows them to continue demonstrating despite the crazy situation the country finds itself in, the government must be immediately dissolved," Zohar, of Likud, tweeted.

"There is no right to exist for a government leading into the abyss via despicable populism that harms public health and endangers the state, just to please a few anarchists driven by hate and evil," he said.  

11:46 A.M. Over 13,000 fined for violating lockdown

According to a police statement, officers handed out 13,459 fines in the past week for various violations of coronavirus restrictions. 
The majority (7,510) of fines were issued to people who were a kilometer away from home for unapproved reasons. Another 241 people were fined for violating quarantine orders. One confirmed patient was fined 5,000 shekels, or about $1,400, for catching a taxi, and another at a gas station, supposedly buying cigarettes. (Josh Breiner)

11:03 A.M. Special education programs to continue

Education Minister Yoav Gallant decided that special education programs, youth villages, and programs for at-risk youth will continue under the tightened lockdown, a move that was approved by the government last night, a statement from his spokesperson said. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia

10:45 A.M. Tightened lockdown to go into effect at 2:00 P.M. Friday

The new, stricter lockdown regulations will go into effect at 2:00 P.M. tomorrow, and last until the holiday of Sukkot is over on October 11. The closure of Ben-Gurion International Airport for departures is not yet finalized, and will be on the table for approval over the course of today. (Jonathan Lis

10:35 A.M. About 8,100 new cases reported yesterday

About 8,100 coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Wednesday, Health Ministry figures show. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 206,332 cases have been diagnosed. 

There are 667 patients in serious condition, and 164 on ventilators. The number of COVID-19 deaths has risen to 1,335.   

10:25 A.M. Coalition whip: anti-Netanyahu protesters 'truly happy' about rising infections 

Coalition Whip Miki Zohar, of Likud, said Friday that the anti-Netanyahu protesters are happy about the rise in coronavirus infection. 

In an interview with Army Radio, Zohar said "The protesters are building off this anger, they're truly happy" about an announced 7,000 new cases diagnosed in one day. 

He added, "They want to bring chaos and destruction because they think this is their way to bring down Netanyahu, they don't care about it. This is a severe accusation, and it's authentic. They think that if they stand and protest, they will cause everyone to disregard the guidelines, and, on the way, infections will increase." 

Zohar also commented on on limiting prayers during the lockdown: "Of course, the idea is to get to a point where praying is done outside in numbers that will not exceed 20 people, and I'm telling you that if there weren't those same protests and the same discrimination, the worshipers would understand the situation."  

He claimed that the protests politically empower the Likud party, and added that Netanyahu aide Topaz Luk, who earlier this week violated his quarantine order after returning from Washington to film protesters for a video critical of them, did not do it so that the protests would end. "If I needed to get into the headspace of that aide, there's no doubt that he didn't do it so that the [protests] would end, but so that the public would see the insanity and disproportionate hate that can endanger all of us." (Jonathan Lis

10:22 A.M. Haifa designated 'red' city with high coronavirus infection rate

As coronavirus cases continue to rise, Haifa's infection rate has risen, with 1,272 active carriers in a city of about 285,000 residents. Since the outbreak began, 2,250 residents have recovered from COVID-19, and 35 have died of the disease. (Noa Shpigel

10:00 A.M. Justice minister: If prayer rules are relaxed, protest rules will be, too

In an interview with Army Radio, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn said that if the restrictions for prayers are relaxed, so too will be the restrictions on protests, and that the new measures are intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus within two weeks.

"The exact outline for protests will for the moment be very limited, but if they actually allow more prayer, then they'll allow protests at the same level," he said of the new restrictions, which allow demonstrators to protests only within a kilometer of their homes and in groups of 20. "I think that at the moment, the trend is to have solidarity."

Nissenkorn, a Kahol Lavan member, added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted a partial closure, "even after two weeks where protests [in front of his official residence] were not allowed, and neither was going from city to city, he didn't achieve that."  

Nissenkorn also said that the new, stricter measures, which effectively close the non-essential private sector, "is a very extreme act with the goal of being done with this in two weeks. The numbers are rising insanely, we need to be done with this thing." 

8:30 A.M. Protests outside PM's residence permitted, but limited to 2,000 people

The Israel Police, the Health Ministry and the attorney general have drafted a plan to limit the number of protesters outside the prime minister's Jerusalem residence on Balfour Street to 2,000, a significant reduction from the 10,000 or so demonstrators who gather there on Saturday evenings, demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resign in light of his corruption charges. Protesters must live within a kilometer of the area to attend.

The coronavirus cabinet requested the plan, which takes into account the space offered by the Paris Square area and nearby streets, and requires demonstrators to break off into groups of 20, in accordance with the new lockdown measures approved earlier this morning.

The Crime Minister protest group responded to the limitations, saying that "The only thing that interests Netanyahu is to stop the protests on Balfour at any cost. Not public health, not a million unemployed and collapsing businesses, and to hell with democracy. His obsession with seeing Paris Square empty is a testament to the strength of the protest and the enormous pressure on him because of it." 

The statement added, "Over the past two weeks, we have led a decisive battle for freedom of expression against unceasing false incitement. We did not blink, and thanks to us it is proven that the criminal defendant [Netanyahu] makes critical decisions out of personal considerations and that he is not fit to lead the country," it said. "Netanyahu will be remembered as someone who brought upon Israel a health, economic and social disaster, and eroded its democracy and its public trust." 

The tighter restrictions, which go into effect on Friday, significantly limit protests. They will only be able to be held a kilometer from the demonstrator's home, and in groups of 20, with two meters between each participant. This will allow police to more easily disperse demonstrations, and to hand out fines of 1,000 shekels (about $290) to those who refuse.

These new rules are an amendment to the law regarding police authority during the coronavirus pandemic, which states that during this state of emergency, protests are allowed but only at the distance from which citizens can leave their homes – in this case, one kilometer.

It also states that "The government is authorized to set limitations on gatherings at protests, in prayer or at religious ceremonies, provided that the restriction is necessary for preventing coronavirus transmission." This restriction will be valid for seven days. (Jonathan Lis and Josh Breiner)   

7:07 A.M. Government approves tightening lockdown

In two rounds of voting, the government has approved the tightened coronavirus restrictions presented by the ministerial coronavirus cabinet. The full lockdown will begin on Friday and last until after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot ends on October 11.

As opposed to the current restrictions, which allow the private sector to operate so long as they do not serve customers face-to-face, only essential businesses, such as pharmacies and supermarkets, and stores that sell hygiene products, will remain open.  

Synagogues will remain open for the Yom Kippur holiday. Protests will be limited to a kilometer from the demonstrator's home, and in groups of no more than 20 people. Up to 20 people will be able to gather up to a kilometer outside the home, and Ben-Gurion airport will close for departures.

Restaurants will remain open for delivery only.

Coronavirus Czar Ronni Gamzu opposed the decision, as did a number of ministers. During the discussion on the new measures, Gamzu recommended the country adopt the 50 percent policy it is currently using for the public sector for private businesses as well, and to limit synagogue activities. Ministers Itzik Shmuli, Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Izhar Shay voted against the new restrictions, and ministers Yisrael Katz, Amir Peretz and Assaf Zamir voted against aspects of it. 

According to a source involved in the discussions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originally requested to comprehensively ban leaving home for protests or prayers, but agreed in the end to the current plan. (Jonathan Lis)

WEDNESDAY

10:48 P.M. Coronavirus crisis could undo decade of Israeli economic growth, OECD warns

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned in a report on Israel that the coronavirus pandemic threatens to undo many of the country’s economic achievements of the last decade.

“In the 10 years since joining the OECD, Israel has halved its unemployment rate, raised living standards and reduced public debt,” said OECD Chief Economist Laurence Boone in a statement. “Israel needs to keep up its efforts to protect people and firms, revive growth and avoid the crisis aggravating key challenges of high inequalities and productivity disparities between high-tech and traditional sectors.” Read the full report here.

10:11 P.M. Coronavirus cabinet decides on stricter measures

The ministerial committee on Israel’s coronavirus response agreed on stricter lockdown measures, to go into effect on Friday and last until after the end of the Jewish High Holy Days on October 11, pending a government vote later on Wednesday.

According to these measures, protests will be limited to groups of up to 20 people, and Israelis will no longer be allowed to travel more than 1,000 meters (about 0.62 miles) from home to participate in one.

Furthermore, only businesses considered essential, including supermarkets and pharmacies, will be allowed to operate. Restaurants will be allowed to operate delivery services.

Ben-Gurion International Airport will stop all departures, according to the new measures. Synagogues will be allowed to open on Yom Kippur, under the existing restrictions. (Jonathan Lis)

9:00 P.M. Netanyahu pushing for stricter, extended lockdown 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for an immediate tightening of the nationwide lockdown and for its extension beyond Yom Kippur and Sukkot. “A tighter lockdown will be implemented in the coming days, and it is better to start during the period of the Jewish festivals,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting.  It remains unclear which measures will be included in Netanyahu's proposal.

The government will struggle to introduce stricter measures before Friday, as the Knesset will have to approve three amendments to the emergency coronavirus law which would allow demonstrations to be banned.

The Finance Ministry estimates that the cost of tightening the lockdown will be around 35 billion shekels (about $10 billion). (Jonathan Lis)

8:30 P.M. Most Israelis support banning protests and prayer, poll finds

The vast majority of Israelis back a ban on protests and prayer services during Israel’s nationwide lockdown, according to a public opinion poll published by Channel 12 News.

Seventy percent of respondents said they think weekly anti-government protests should be banned, as opposed to only 22 percent who say they should be allowed to continue. Sixty percent said they think synagogues should be ordered shut during Yom Kippur next week, and 32 percent said they should remain open. (Haaretz)

7:50 P.M. Active cases rise to 57,131

The number of active coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 57,131, with the number of total cases since the beginning of the pandemic reaching 203,136. There are 658 people in serious condition and 177 people on ventilators. There were 61,165 tests conducted Tuesday, according to new Health Ministry figures. (Haaretz)

7:25 P.M. Knesset vote on emergency measures delayed

A Knesset vote planned for Wednesday to amend legislation on emergency coronavirus measures has been delayed, hinting at deepening disagreements among cabinet ministers on stricter lockdown measures.

The Knesset is set to go on a 10-day recess starting Wednesday night, but a special vote has been rescheduled for Thursday at 12 P.M.

Proposed amendments would let the government ban protests, which are currently protected under the law despite emergency directives barring large gatherings. (Jonathan Lis)

6:20 P.M. Protests can only be banned in event of full lockdown, says Mendelblit.

Demonstrations can’t be banned unless Israel imposes a full lockdown, which would also ban prayer services, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said. According to Mendelblit, banning protests specifically “raises constitutional problems.” 

The ministerial committee on Israel’s coronavirus response is debating stricter lockdown measures, including the possibility of banning protests, but have yet to announce their decision. Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party opposes a ban on protests.

Over the past months, Israel has seen a growing wave of anti-government protests, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign over his trial in three corruption cases and his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. (Jonathan Lis)

4:55 P.M. Analysis: Netanyahu pits protests against prayers. Compromise won’t come from him

Like any especially brutal photo negative, the coronavirus exposes every blemish, cleft and weak link. It strips them of the cushioning that normally conceals them and enables us to somehow live with them, with some denial. The coronavirus crisis is exposing the kulturkampf in Israel, which as usual over the past three decades, revolves around a single person: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Read Ravit Hecht's full analysis here.

4:50 P.M. Netanyahu: I support right to protest, but professionals all tell me to stop them

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that all the professionals advising him have recommended was to ban all gatherings, including protests and prayer within an enclosed space. Netanyahu said that he "fully supports the right to protest, but every week the citizens of Israel see how they are required to celebrate the holiday alone, how they are required to follow the health guidelines, and on the other hand how protesters gather en masse against every health-related rule." (Jonathan Lis) 

4:35 P.M. Kahol Lavan source: Netanyahu told meeting he plans to push legislation to halt mass protests during lockdown

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting of the so-called coronavirus cabinet that he will act to prevent mass protests during the lockdown and plans to move swiftly to pass legislation allowing this, according to a source in the Kahol Lavan party. Regarding the issue of prayers, which has been at the center of intense government debate amid anger by religious politicians over the closure of synagogues during the High Holy Days, the source said Netanyahu was looking to allow prayer in pods, with participants not allowed to travel more than a kilometer from their homes. The source further said that Netanyahu is only interested in halting protests against him in Jerusalem. (Jonathan Lis)

3:15 P.M. Kahol Lavan to back ban on protests during lockdown if synagogues forced to close

The Kahol Lavan party plans to agree to a ban on protests during the current lockdown if synagogues are also shut. If the so-called coronavirus cabinet decides to halt the protests, the Knesset will be convened later Wednesday to alter legislation obligating the government to allow protests during the lockdown.

In a phone conversation on the matter, Interior Minister Arye Dery, also the chairman of the Shas party, insisted that Yom Kippur prayers be exempted from synagogue closures, while Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of Kahol Lavan strongly opposed this.

Defense Minister and Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz said that both the right to protest and the demand to be allowed to prayer are both sacred. (Jonathan Lis)

1:10 P.M. Netanyahu seeks tighter lockdown as cases surge

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would seek to pass a resolution on a widespread general lockdown and significant tightening of restrictions immediately, as well as on the closure of extensive industries in the economy.

The coronavirus cabinet will convene at 2:00 P.M. on Wednesday to discuss the matter. (Jonathan Lis) 

11:40 A.M. Finance minister says anti-gov't protests during lockdown harm democracy 

Demonstrations should be “restrained completely during the lockdown period,” Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said in an interview with the Knesset Channel. The protests are destroying democracy and protesters should turn to social media, Katz added.

The possibility of protesting in the public space “leads to an unwillingness of broad groups to follow the instructions,” Katz said. “Not only does this not strengthen democracy, it destroys it. Everyone says they are at a demonstration and because of this all the orders are in fact canceled.” Strict rules must be set for prayer services too, he added.

Katz criticized the protests on Rosh Hashanah against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Tel Aviv beach, as well as the holiday meal activists held across from the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. He called it a “farce” and “anarchy.” 

“It is possible to express a respectful, significant protest with any message, even during the lockdown period – on social media,” he said. “Without setting clear and equal rules and uncompromising enforcement, it is impossible to send a serious message to the public. It is not possible to stop the infection and leave the economy open. There is no room for political games and privilege,” said Katz.

The possibility of limiting demonstrations during the lockdown will be discussed on Wednesday morning by the coronavirus cabinet, after Tuesday’s meeting ended without any decision being made. The Justice and Health Ministries are in the process of formulating a framework for limiting demonstrations and prayer services. Interior Minister Arye Dery of Shas threatened to resign if services in synagogues are restricted while the protests continue, while Communications Minister Yoaz Handel also supported restricting protests during the lockdown. (Haaretz)

11:17 A.M. Israeli COVID deaths rise by 31 in 24 hours

The number of Israeli coronavirus deaths has reached 1,316 since the outbreak began, an increase of 31 since yesterday. Active cases stand at 54,322, and 200,041 cases have been diagnosed in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

10:45 A.M. Health Minister orders to bolster medical staff as cases surge 

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and the director general of his office, Prof. Hezi Levy, ordered to hire more paramedics and hospital staff as cases continue to spike.

8:25 A.M. Number of cases breaks new record

Health Ministry data shows that 6,667 new infections have been diagnosed and that 61,165 tests were conducted on Tuesday. According to these statistics, 10.9 percent of tests came back positive.

As of this morning, Israel has 1,352 patients currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 668 of them in serious condition.  

The ministry said that due to technical difficulties, it had not published data on new infections since Tuesday morning.

On Monday, Coronavirus Czar Professor Ronni Gamzu said that by the end of this week, the number of patients in serious condition will pass 800, the upper limit that hospitals can handle. Over the last few days, COVID-19 patients have been forced to wait in ambulances for hours due to the difficulty of finding a hospital that can accept them, as coronavirus wards across the country reach full capacity.

Although a system had been devised to divide patients among hospitals in order to spread the burden more evenly, that system has been failing in the wake of the sharp increase in patients. 

At Tuesday's coronavirus cabinet meeting, at which no decision was made regarding imposing new restrictions, Interior Minister Arye Dery of Shas said that he would resign if synagogue prayers were restricted and protests were not. 

This morning, he tweeted that for Yom Kippur, synagogues should operate according to a system like that of workplaces, limiting attendance, and to prepare more outdoor prayer spaces. "During lockdown, whoever wants to protest can do it outside their homes. We need to clarify that the rules for protests are the same as the rules for prayer," he added. (Haaretz and Ido Efrati) 

TUESDAY

9:00 P.M. Coronavirus cabinet meeting ends, will reconvene for decisions tomorrow 

The meeting of the coronavirus cabinet ended with no decision made on further lockdown restrictions. The cabinet will reconvene Wednesday morning, and the Justice Ministry and Health Ministry will formulate an outline for holding demonstrations. (Jonathan Lis)

7:40 P.M. Netanyahu calls to curb protests against him under coronavirus restrictions

Speaking at the meeting of the coronavirus cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to curb weekly anti-government protests under the coronavirus restrictions.

"For a long time I've avoided weighing in on the matter, but after I've heard experts claiming that gatherings are a huge threat to public health, it is my obligation to relate to it. The entire public is obligated to abide by the regulations and only a group of protesters is exempt," Netanyahu said. "You can only visit the Western Wall if you live within a kilometer of it, but people can come to Balfour from all over the country. At the Western Wall people can only pray in groups of twenty, but at the protests everything is permitted. This farce must stop!"

"There must be one law for prayers and protests and all forms of gatherings. Otherwise the public won't listen to the guidelines and the rate of infection will soar to threatening proportions," Netanyahu said.

7:30 P.M. Netanyahu aide fined for violating quarantine

Netanyahu's social media adviser, Topaz Luk, was fined 5,000 shekels after he violated mandatory quarantine.

Luk was filmed on Sunday at an anti-government protest near the premier's official residence in Jerusalem. Luk was also a member of the delegation that needed to quarantine upon their return from Washington. (Bar Peleg)

6:30 P.M. Lawmakers come out against cabinet discussion on  tightening lockdown restrictions 

Israel's coronavirus cabinet is convening to discuss further lockdown restrictions amid the spike in infections and mortality and the burden on hospitals.

COVID-19 czar Ronni Gamzu presented to the cabinet ministers, among other things, his plan to reduce prayer activity in synagogues after an assessment by health professionals, angering Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

"I can not understand why demonstrations are a yes and prayers are a no. Prayers in life are important not only for the ultra-Orthodox, but also for the religious, traditional and secular. It is a sacred value," Deri said, adding that he is ready to stand in front of the rabbis and call on the public to prevent gatherings and pray outside. 

Finance Minister Amir Peretz said he was against the tightening of lockdown restrictions, saying "we must not change the decision made a few days ago. If we make new decisions again, we will create confusion. Employers have already prepared for the original restrictions, and further restrictions will created chaos."

According to Peretz, a discussion must be helf after two weeks have passed to examine the lockdown's effectiveness, and then decide on whether to tighten restrictions.  

Peretz continued to back the public by giving his confidence in them: "The public is turning to the regulations and starting to implement them. Small businesses and factories have adapted themselves, the economic systems has adapted itself. There is no reason after five days to issue new regulations." (Jonathan Lis)

5:40 P.M. Opposition lawmaker says anti-Netanyahu protests should stop during lockdown

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah, a strong figure in the opposition, encouraged Israelis to halt anti-Netanyahu protests during the coronavirus lockdown. 

"There is nothing more just than a protest against a corrupt and failed prime minister. And there is nothing more justified than stopping the mass demonstrations against him at this critical moment. Whoever holds this cause dear to their heart should say now: Stop until the end of the lockdown, continue in other ways," said Shelah in a tweet. (Haaretz)

3:40 P.M. Overcrowding at hospitals leaves coronavirus patients waiting in ambulance for hours 

Israel's system of regulating coronavirus patients, which is supposed to disperse the burden between hospitals in Israel, has difficulty functioning and is becoming less relevant day by day.

In recent days, Magen David Adom ambulances have been finding it difficult to find hospitals that will take in patients, and as a result, patients wait for hours in the ambulances until a hospital can be found that can accommodate them.

Magen David Adom have also recently informed hospitals as well as the Health Ministry that they will not agree towander for long hours in search of hospitals that will admit the patients and refer them to a hospital designated by the ministry, even if it refuses to accept the patient, and drop them off at the entrance to the emergency rooms designated for coronavirus patients, where they will wait with the rest of the patients who have arrived at the hospital independently.

"It has reached a point where in some hospitals security guards have been deployed to prevent the entry of ambulances with patients or suspected coronavirus patients," says a source in Magen David Adom. 

According to sources in the health system, there is a gap between the way in which the situation of the hospitals is presented and the actual reality. "Some hospital directors speak with two voices: on the one hand, they send a message that the load is tolerable and there is a possibility of accepting more patients - both to prevent the public from leaving the hospital, and to convey an optimistic spirit to hospital staff. In practice, the situation is worse," claims a senior in the health system. In reality, it turns out that hospitals that are registered with the Health Ministry as being able to receive additional patients are not actually able to. (Ido Efrati)

1:56 P.M. Israel's chief rabbi says will oppose shuttering synagogues on Yom Kippur

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would object the closure of synagogues during the Yom Kippur fast if harsher restrictions are not imposed on other gatherings, adding that the public will not comply with the shuttering of shuls. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

1:51 P.M. Israel expands economic aid to businesses and self-employed by $3 bln

The cabinet has approved an extra 10.5-billion-shekel ($3-billion) aid package to help businesses and self-employed workers cope during a new nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The cabinet also authorized 10% salary reductions to members of parliament, the prime minister and other well paid government officials just before midnight on Monday.

Israel has approved economic aid of some 140 billion shekels through 2022 – 85 billion in 2020 alone – but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticized by businesses that say the funds have been slow to arrive.

Grants are slated to go to businesses whose revenue falls more than 25 percent, the Finance Ministry said. (Reuters) 

12:20 P.M. Over 1,350 patients hospitalized

As of Tuesday morning, there were 1,352 coronavirus patients in the hospital, including 668 in serious condition, according to Health Ministry figures.

Since Monday night, 2,445 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in Israel, and the total number of active cases is currently 51,338. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,273 people have died of the coronavirus in Israel. (Haaretz)

1:08 P.M. President Rivlin grants pardon for citations amid pandemic crisis 

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn unveiled a plan on Tuesday to grant pardons for fines owed by people facing serious financial problems due to the coronavirus pandemic. Under the plan, however, fines for violating coronavirus health restrictions will not be pardoned.

“Too many Israeli men and women have suddenly found themselves in the financial battle of their lives. At such a time, the State of Israel needs to extend a hand to its sons and daughters to come to the aid of those who need it,” President Rivlin said.

“We will not consider requests concessions regarding fines that were imposed for violating directives to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but rather for fines owed by those whose economic situation has worsened due to the fight against the coronavirus,” Rivlin noted. Israelis are dependent upon one another “and it is appropriate that all of us fight the virus together with a commitment to mutual responsibility,” he added.

Nissenkorn spoke of the obligation to do whatever possible to help those in debt “to keep their heads above water.”  The new plan, he said, “will provide additional relief to many of those in debt over fines and will address the financial distress that they have encountered through the use of the [president’s] authority to grant pardons.” (Jonathan Lis)

12:04 P.M. Health Ministry top official says lockdown won't be eased until positive tests reduced to 7 percent

The deputy director of the Health Ministry, Prof. Itamar Grotto, said Tuesday that his ministry is working on plan that would not ease the current lockdown on the country until the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive is reduced to no more than 7 percent. “Today we are in the range of 12 percent,” he told a session of the Knesset’s coronavirus committee.

Before last weekend’s Rosh Hashanah holiday, about 50,000 coronavirus tests a day were being performed. At that pace, if 7 percent of the tests are positive that would translate into no more than 3,500 new coronavirus cases a day before the lockdown is eased. (Ido Efrati)

10:56 A.M. Coronavirus cabinet to discuss tighter lockdown restrictions

Israel's coronavirus cabinet is expected to convene Tuesday to discuss further lockdown restrictions amid the spike in infections and mortality and the burden on hospitals.

However, it is unlikely that the cabinet will decide to immediately implement measures to tighten the lockdown. According to estimates, cabinet members will adopt the stance of professionals, who recommend imposing harsher restrictions during the holiday of Sukkot next week.    

Currently, some 1,400 coronavirus patients are hospitalized, with over 650 cases in serious condition. By this weekend, the number of seriously ill patients is expected to exceed 800.  

Professionals are debating transitioning from a near-complete closure to a full lockdown, meaning shutting down most workplaces in the private sector, excluding businesses that are deemed "essential." A full lockdown will also include more restrictions on gatherings, closure of synagogues and barring prayer services indoors.    

These measures would significantly reduce movement and improve the police's ability to enforce restrictions, but would exert a heavy economic and social price.

According to Health Ministry sources, at the heart of the deliberations are disagreements as to when to implement tighter measures, and not if to impose them.

Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu believes that the effect of the current lockdown will only be seen in several days, and that the health system still has the capacity to allow further measures at a later stage. (Ido Efrati)

MONDAY

9:50 P.M. Supreme Court President Esther Hayut quarantined 

Israel's Supreme Court President Esther Hayut has been required to quarantine after her adviser tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday. (Netael Bandel)

9:30 P.M. Health official says students did not abide by 'capsule plan,' schools will no open after lockdown

Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish said that the high infection rate in the education system was due in part to the fact that the students did not maintain the outline of the "capsule plan," adding that schools will not reopen at the end of the lockdown. 

Kish admitted that the state erred while preparing for the opening of schools on September 1. "The outline failed," adding that "no matter how hard the teachers try to keep them, they didn't maintain the capsules." Kish was asked how the children could maintain the outline and replied: "In the education system in Sweden or Germany - it works, and in the State of Israel it has been proven to not work."

According to the so-called capsule plan – agreed upon with the Health Ministry – each group of students is isolated from the others, including in the dining halls and dormitories. (Haaretz)

8:15 P.M. Israel's diagnoses 2,135 more cases

The Health Ministry said that 2,135 more people tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 190,037, of which 52,263 are active and 169 are on ventilators.

According to the data, the toll reached 1,272 fatalities since the pandemic erupted in Israel.

So far, 136,502 people have recovered. The ministry added that 24,487 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)

7:20 P.M. Israeli delegation that returned from Washington all test negative, released from quarantine 

The Israeli delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his trip to Washington, D.C. last week to attend the signing ceremony of the normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House all tested negative for the coronavirus, and were thus released from mandatory quarantine. (Noa Landau)

4:40 P.M. Over 1 million Israelis quarantined since July 1

The Health Ministry About 1,166,255 Israelis were asked to enter mandatory quarantine since July 1, showed Health Ministry data, while during the past week alone, 254,532 Israelis were asked to quarantine. (Jonathan Lis)

4:15 P.M. Gantz asks army to begin working on new field hospital 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a situation assessment meeting in which it was decided that the army must immediately prepare for the establishment of a field hospital in accordance with the needs of the health system.

Gantz instructed the military to begin the staff work required to establish a field hospital that would contain about 200 beds on the basis of the allocation of doctors, nurses and paramedics from the IDF. (Yaniv Kubovich and Amos Harel)

4:00 P.M. First Israeli hospital to postpone non-urgent surgeries due to overcrowding

Due to overcrowding in coronavirus cases, the Western Galilee Hospital in the northern city of Nahariya announced that it would postpone elective surgeries that do not involve urgent medical emergencies - making it the first hospital in Israel to announce a reduction in elective activity during the second wave.

"We will have to use anesthetists as part of the team treating difficult and critical coronavirus patients, so we will have no choice but to postpone elective surgery," said the hospital's director.

In the three coronavirus wards of the hospital, 89 corona patients are currently hospitalized, of whom 33 are in serious condition, including 14 on ventilators. The hospital is expected to open a fourth COVID-19 ward tomorrow. (Ido Efrati)

3:30 P.M. Defense Ministry, army announce new epidemiological investigations unit  

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi recently approved the establishment of a new epidemiological investigations unit for tracking infection chains, carrying out inspections, operating isolation hotels, distributing food and providing information, announced an IDF statement on Monday. 

About 600 regular soldiers will be positioned in the new unit, in addition to dozens of reservists as well as the hundreds of researchers who will be added in the coming weeks in the local authorities. (Haaretz)

2:16 P.M. Two COVID wards at full capacity, hospitals to stop taking coronavirus patients

Two Israeli hospitals have stopped intake for coronavirus patients: Shaare Zedek Medical Center, in Jerusalem and Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod. 

The hospitals' coronavirus wards are at full capacity.

Over the holiday weekend, Israeli hospitals were instructed to open additional coronavirus wards, at the expense of internal medicine departments. (Ido Efrati)

2:06 P.M. Tens of thousands of Israelis registered for unemployment since lockdown began

From Thursday to Monday, Israel's employment office received 4,650 reports of unemployed people returning to work – and nine times more, or 41,924 people, filing for unemployment. The nation-wide lockdown, which shuttered stores that serve customers in-person and reduced restaurant service to delivery only, began Friday afternoon.

Of those, 38,288, or 91 percent, of the jobseekers who filed with the office, are on unpaid leave. There are currently 779,737 unemployed people in Israel, of whom 453,066 are on unpaid leave. (Sivan Klingbail)

2:00 P.M. Police issue nearly 7,000 lockdown-related citations during three days of Rosh Hashanah holiday

Police handed out 6,943 citations for lockdown violations between Friday and Sunday, the period of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, according to authorities. The most citations, 4,822, were given over leaving the one-kilometer radius around their homes without a valid reason.

There were also 1,798 citations for failure to wear a mask and 121 for violating quarantine requirements. The police statement noted a number of specific cases, such as a driver who drove through a roadblock and refused to stop, only doing so after officers took out their weapons. In another incident, a restaurant in Tel Aviv served 50 customers in violation of restrictions and was forced to close. Several businesses were also forced to close because they were open in violation of restrictions. A man from Petah Tikva was also fined for visiting a ritual bath despite having received a coronavirus diagnosis. (Bar Peleg)

1:34 P.M. Second Netanyahu aide violates post-Washington quarantine order

The policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuven Azar, violated Health Ministry quarantine orders to go grocery shopping on Friday morning, witnesses told Haaretz.  

Azar was seen shopping at a supermarket in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion at about 11:35 A.M. Friday. He accompanied Netanyahu on his trip to the White House last week, where Israel officially normalized ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. According to the ministry orders, delegation members were obligated to remain in quarantine until Monday, or until their coronavirus test results come back negative. 

 The Prime Minister's Office said that they are "clarifying" Azar's situation. "The Health Ministry's announcement about changing the lockdown regulations and quarantine arrived late Thursday night, and he was not updated and regrets it," the statement said. It added that Azar has been reprimanded so that "this situation does not happen again." (Noa Landau) Read the full story here.

12:00 P.M. Health Ministry examines possibility of tightening lockdown restrictions 

The Health Ministry and the team of experts led by Prof. Ronni Gamzu are holding discussions ahead of the Coronavirus Cabinet meeting set for Tuesday, in which they will discuss tightening restrictions during the lockdown, due to the rising infection rates. According to sources in the ministry, the main step being considered is to limit the activity of the economy in the public and private sectors. The government may completely suspend economic activity, except for essential businesses, similarly to the first lockdown. The move is expected to reduce infection, but also lead to significant economic damage.

Prof. Gamzu believes that too little time has passed to determine that the lockdown in its current format is unsatisfactory. The Health Ministry and the team of experts leading it do not state at this stage that there is a need for immediate tightening of the closure, but are preparing to present to the members of the cabinet more drastic measures, which will be brought for discussion and decision by the government. (Ido Efrati)

9:40 A.M. Lawmakers, Knesset staff told to self-isolate after member of Knesset tests positive

Lawmakers Moshe Ya'alon and Mickey Levy have been ordered to self-isolate at home until September 30 after the completion of contact tracing following the infection of lawmaker Moshe Arbel. Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz and a staff member in her office, as well as an employee of the Knesset's legal department, have also been instructed to self-isolate. (Jonathan Lis)

8:30 A.M. Netanyahu adviser under quarantine order filmed at protest

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's digital and new media adviser was filmed on Sunday at an anti-government protest near the premier's official residence in Jerusalem, despite Health Ministry directives requiring him to quarantine after returning from Washington.   

Netanyahu's Likud party said Luk was only present for a coronavirus test. However, the tests given to members of the delegation to Washington were conducted in a drive-through facility at the Prime Minister's Office, and did not require those being tested to leave their vehicles. Luk was filmed near the Prima Kings Hotel, which is roughly 2.5 kilometers (a mile and a half) away from the Prime Minister's Office. Protest activist Gonen Ben Itzkak has submitted a police complaint alleging that Luk had violated his quarantine requirement. (Nir Hasson and Noa Landau) Read full story here... 

announced," the statement said.

"We are eking out from month to month out of an inability to pay salaries and payments to suppliers. We can enlarge our coronavirus ward and treat every person in need, but we must be funded for that." (Ido Efrati)       

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