Coronavirus Israel: Government Approves Nighttime Curfew for Purim Holiday

Israel to transfer vaccines for Palestinian medical staffs ■ Cabinet set to debate Purim overnight curfew ■ More than 3 million Israelis have received both vaccine doses ■ Israel further limits entry of Israelis from abroad

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A Palestinian health worker takes out a box of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine provided by Israel in the biblical West Bank city of Bethlehem,
A Palestinian health worker takes out a box of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine provided by Israel in the West Bank city of BethlehemCredit: HAZEM BADER - AFP
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Haaretz

This story was a live blog but is longer being updated. Get the latest developments about coronavirus in Israel here.

Israel is in the midst of an extensive vaccination campaign, and is beginning to see a drop in COVID infections and severe cases. Israel exited its third nationwide lockdown, but inbound and outbound flights remain suspended except for special cases. So far, 5,604 Israelis have died of the virus.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip received 1,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, though it may take at least a few more months for their campaigns to reach enough members of the population. 1,645 people have died so far in the West Bank, while 545 have died in Gaza.

>> How many have already been vaccinated

>> Purim parties threaten Israel's post-lockdown progress in COVID fight

>> Israel reopens, with more COVID rules relaxed: Here's everything you need to know

LIVE UPDATES

9:00 P.M. Israeli ministers approve night curfew over Purim weekend 

Ministers approved on Tuesday a nightly curfew for Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the hopes of deterring people from holding parties for the Purim holiday.

The curfew will last from 8:30 P.M. until 5:00 A.M. each day. Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper was the only cabinet minister not to vote in favor of the curfew and abstained. (Judy Maltz)

7:30 P.M. Health Ministry orders closure of Tel Aviv facility for vaccinating undocumented population

The Health Ministry ordered on Tuesday the closure of a dedicated coronavirus vaccine center for asylum seekers and migrant workers set up in Tel Aviv, although demand has been high and there are still tens of thousands of undocumented people who haven't been vaccinated. The ministry made the unexpected announcement that the facility would not operate beginning on Wednesday, but that undocumented individuals who have received one dose will be able to receive the second. The ministry told health workers that the "opening and closing of facilities are [the result of] the supply of vaccines, prioritization of personnel, and public demand," but has not provided an official comment on the matter. According to sources, the ministry said that it was out of vaccines allocated for the undocumented population, and that it promised to open a facility for undocumented people in Haifa, likely just for one day. The majority of this population lives in Tel Aviv and surrounding towns. (Lee Yaron)  

7:20 P.M. Israeli doctors' association blasts bill that would hand over details of unvaccinated to government

The Israel Association of Public Health Physicians called on lawmakers on Tuesday to vote down a bill that would hand over the details of people who haven't received the coronavirus vaccine to the authorities, saying that it would violate the principle of patient confidentiality.

Ahead of a hearing by the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, which allowed the bill to go ahead for a vote in the full Knesset, a letter by the association said that while was important to encourage vaccination against COVID-19, “an unprofessional action could possibly cause serious harm” and damage the public’s trust in government authorities.

The doctors argued that the exposure of confidential medical information to local authorities would undermine trust in them and violate the principle of medical privacy. (Jonathan Lis)

6:26 P.M. Israel revokes license of doctor who issued fake vaccination certificates 

The Health Ministry announced Tuesday that will permanently revoke the medical license of Dr. Arie Avni, who has forged vaccine certificates.

Avni, one of Israel's most renowned coronavirus deniers, heads a political party which is running in the upcoming elections on March 23. One of the party's goals is to establish a new Health Ministry called 'hugging not forcing', which would give parents the rights to exclusively determine every medical decision for their child, including decisions regarding vaccinations and surgeries.

Avni has an established online presence, and a Facebook page called 'Medicine the Right Way – Dr. Arieh Avni', where he uploads different articles. He also calls on the public to breach the Health Ministry's coronavirus regulations, and uploads articles that allegedly defame and  denounce doctors in the public health service. (Tali Heruti-Sover)

5:38 P.M. Hundreds vaccinated at Jerusalem checkpoint as cases skyrocket in East Jerusalem's Palestinian neighborhoods

Hundreds of people were vaccinated on Monday at a center set up at the Qalandiyah checkpoint north of Jerusalem in order to provide shots to those unable to enter Israel for them. But the line between those who are eligible changed over the course of the day.

The center was opened as part of a vaccine drive by emergency services in East Jerusalem in light of worrying statistics. Recently, Palestinian neighborhoods in the city have overtaken ultra-Orthodox ones in terms of new case. On Monday, the rate of positive coronavirus tests was a staggering 31 percent in East Jerusalem. The rate of vaccination in East Jerusalem is meanwhile significantly lower than in the rest of the city. In East Jerusalem, 27 percent of residents have received the first dose of the vaccine, compared to 57 percent city-wide. Only 12 percent of East Jerusalem residents have received the second dose, compared to 37 percent city-wide. (Nir Hasson)

2:10 P.M. Israel to transfer 'symbolic amount' of COVID vaccines to Palestinians, other countries 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said that Israel had decided to transfer a 'symbolic amount' of coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority to vaccinate Palestinian medical staffs.

The transfer of COVID vaccines, the statement said, was made possible after Israel had "accumulated a limited amount of vaccines that were not used." The statement did not mention however the amount of vaccines in the shipments. 

Israel will also send a few thousand doses of the vaccine to the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Hungary. Honduras has announced its intention to move their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, while the Czech Republic has said it plans to open a 'diplomatic office' in Jerusalem. (Judy Maltz)

>> Click here to read the full article

12:20 P.M. Israeli scientists warn Pfizer CEO: Netanyahu may exploit your visit for election campaign

Senior Israeli scientists and academics have asked the CEO of Pfizer, the manufacturer of the main coronavirus vaccine used in Israel, to postpone his visit to Israel due to fears that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will exploit his arrival for his campaign ahead of the country's March 23 election. 

Albert Bourla is scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 8 at the invitation of Netanyahu. The trip has been coordinated by the National Security Council. (Amos Harel)

>> Click here to read the full article

1:04 P.M. Netanyahu promises 'continuous supply of Pfizer vaccines'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "I spoke to my friend, the CEO of Pfizer Albert Bourla, and we agreed there will be a continuous supply of Pfizer vaccines."

"Go and get vaccinated. We are also receiving more and more and more Moderna [vaccines],” added Netanyahu, who was speaking at the official ceremony in memory of Joseph Trumpeldor and his comrades who fell in the defense of Tel Hai in 1920. (Haaretz)

MONDAY

10:16 P.M. Israel to open vaccination center for East Jerusalem Palestinians

The Magen David Adom emergency medical organization said it will operate a vaccination center at East Jerusalem's Qalandiyah checkpoint, together with the Health Ministry, the Israeli army and the Jerusalem municipality.

Vaccinations will be offered to East Jerusalem Palestinian living outside the separation barrier in the West Bank who hold an Israeli citizenship. (Haaretz)

8:38 P.M. South African variant identified in 1 percent of positive tests

27 out of 3,000 positive coronavirus tests sampled since the start of January has been found to contain the South African variant of the virus, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry added in a statement that the rate of infection with this particular variant is believed to be higher in some parts of the country. (Haaretz)

8:32 P.M. Health Ministry doesn't back reopening more classes

The Health Ministry said in a statement that it does not support reopening in-person classes for grades 7 to 10, following reports of a potential agreement to bring back students in that age group. (Ido Efrati)

8:29 P.M. Health Ministry director-general pushes for Purim lockdown

Chezy Levy, director-general of the Health Ministry, said he "fears" mass gatherings and parties over the Purim holiday, which starts on Thursday, and told Channel 12 News that he supports an overnight curfew over the weekend to prevent a rise in infections.

The cabinet is set to debate proposals for Purim restrictions on Tuesday.

According to Levy, the curfew would go into effect on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8 P.M. to 5 A.M. During that time, Israelis will be limited to a 1,000-meter (0.6 miles) radius of their homes. (Haaretz)

7:18 P.M. More than 3 million Israeli get both vaccine shots

3,034,906 Israelis have received both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, Health Ministry figures show, representing 32.8 percent of the overall population. More than 35,000 people got their second dose on Monday.

There are nearly 1.4 million Israelis who got their first shot so far, and are awaiting the second one. Overall, 47.6 percent of Israelis got at least the first shot. (Haaretz)

>> Click here for Haaretz's vaccine tracker 

4:52 P.M. Israeli cabinet meeting on holiday restriction delayed

The Israeli cabinet meeting on proposed restrictions over the Purim holiday, which beings on Thursday, will be held on Tuesday. The meeting was initially planned for Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "We should do everything to go through the holiday with as little infection and as few deaths as possible," adding authorities "must prevent" parties and other gatherings. (Judy Maltz)

3:15 P.M. Knesset advances bill that will authorize transfer of details of unvaccinated Israelis to authorities

The Knesset approved Monday the first of three votes of a bill to authorize identification information and contact details of Israelis who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus to local authorities and the Education Ministry.

The controversial move is intended to make it easier to locate those who are eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine who have not yet done so. It is designed as a temporary order to last for three months.

Earlier, the Knesset committee, headed by Kahol Lavan lawmaker Eitan Ginzburg, approved the passage of the law in three readings in an expedited procedure, shortening the schedule required by ordinary legislation.

The bill is intended to solidify an arrangement that will allow the Health Ministry's director-general to pass on identification and contact information about those who have been fully or partially vaccinated, as well as those who have not yet been vaccinated.

If approved, the bill will also authorize the Health Ministry's director-general to demand from public bodies, including health maintenance organizations (HMOs), contact details of anyone who has not been vaccinated and has not been contacted regarding getting vaccinated, in order to try and locate them.

The bill was approved by 21 lawmakers and opposed by six, and will now be deliberated upon by the Knesset's Welfare and Health Committee. (Jonathan Lis)

1:00 P.M. Israel to further limit entry of Israelis returning from abroad

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Transportation Minister Miri Regev decided on Monday to limit the number of Israelis returning through Ben-Gurion International Airport from 2,000 down to 200 per day starting next week.

The decision was made in light of the authorities' difficulty in enforcing quarantine requirements from returning Israelis. Arrivals would be limited to "urgent humanitarian cases," until a solution that will allow enforcement of isolation is found.

The new regulations might mean thousands of Israelis currently abroad may not be able to vote in Israel's March 23 election. Apart from diplomatic staff, Israel doesn't let citizens vote abroad. (Judy Maltz)

>> Click here to read the full report

12:38 P.M. Teacher's Union head rejects local bids for early return to class

The head of the teacher’s union, Ran Erez, came out in opposition on Monday to the decision of local councils to restart classes for children from the seventh to the 10th grades, in defiance of coronavirus regulations. 

On Sunday, Forum 15, The Israeli Forum of Self-Government Cities, which represents Israel's 15 biggest cities, announced it would reopen classes for the age groups starting February 24, and not on March 9 as was decided by the government.

Thus far, 17 municipalities have announced that they will resume seven through 10th grade classes: Ashdod, Givatayim, Be'er Sheva, Herzliya, Hadera, Holon, Kfar Sava, Petah Tikva, Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Rishon Letzion, Rehovot, Haifa, Netanya, Ramat Gan, Ramat Hasharon and the Gezer Regional Council. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

7:50 A.M. Cabinet to discuss Purim COVID restrictions

The cabinet will discuss imposing restrictions during the Purim holiday amid "worrying" reports of planned activity over the holiday, Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Monday morning. 

In an interview with Kan Bet public radio, Edelstein said that the cabinet received updates on a spike in alcohol sales and event invitations on social media to celebrate the festival on Thursday evening. 

"To my great regret, I think there's no escaping restrictions," he said. In weighing up the options, Edelstein said that "a night curfew" was in the cards, in order to allow people to hear the reading of the megillah while preventing parties afterward. (Haaretz)

7:32 A.M. Three million fully vaccinated in Israel

Israel's vaccination drive has now seen 3 million people fully vaccinated, around 32 percent of the population.

The figures from the Health Ministry released on Monday reveal that 4,377,000 Isralies have been vaccinated against coronavirus, amounting in 47.2 percent of the population. 

The Health Ministry reported that an additional 157,000 people received their coronavirus inoculation on Sunday, 80,000 of whom were vaccinated with their first dose. (Haaretz)

>> Click here for previous updates

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