Coronavirus Israel Live: Health Ministry to Carry Out 100,000 Antibody Tests

Shin Bet tracking extended by three weeks ■ Malls, markets to open Thursday ■ Arab leaders protest inequality in economic response ■ Palestinian Authority extends emergency regulations ■ Israel approves Lag Ba’omer restrictions

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A pedestrian walks in Haifa, May 4, 2020.
A pedestrian walks in Haifa, May 4, 2020.Credit: Rami Shllush
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As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, Israel and the Palestinians are working to curb the spread of COVID-19 among their populations.

■ 16,310 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 239 people have died. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 515 people tested positive; two people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 17 people were diagnosed, 12 of which recovered. 

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

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

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

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

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

12:30 A.M. Israeli government approves extending coronavirus emergency regulations to May 10

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

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

THURSDAY 

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

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

People stroll through Tel Aviv as coronavirus restrictions are eased, May 5, 2020
People stroll through Tel Aviv as coronavirus restrictions are eased, May 5, 2020Credit: Moti Milrod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School principal Regina Aviram in a classroom on the first day of school after the coronavirus lockdown in the Yigal Alon elementary school, Givatayim, Israel, May 3, 2020.
School principal Regina Aviram in a classroom on the first day of school after the coronavirus lockdown in the Yigal Alon elementary school, Givatayim, Israel, May 3, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A woman walks in front of empty fridges set up as a protest against government policy by freelance and independent workers on Habima Square, Tel Aviv, April 30, 2020.
A woman walks in front of empty fridges set up as a protest against government policy by freelance and independent workers on Habima Square, Tel Aviv, April 30, 2020. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The death toll remains steady at 238.

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY 

8:16 P.M. Rate of infection continues to slow in Israel

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 29 on Tuesday to 16,289. The death toll stands at 238. There are 70 patients on ventilators. There were nearly 7,000 tests done on Tuesday, according to the Health Ministry, down from over 9,000 a day earlier. (Haaretz)

7:20 P.M. Health Ministry publishes health guidelines for the reopening of preschools

According to guidelines published by the Health Ministry ahead of the reopening of public preschools Sunday, children will be divided into small groups and attend school just three days a week.

Children will be divided into two permanent groups of up to 18 students. These groups will be further divided into two permanent sub-groups and learn in two separate classrooms. Each group will attend preschool for three consecutive days from 7:55 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., followed by three consecutive days of distance learning from home.

Teachers and staff will be permitted to work with up to six groups. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

>> Click Here to read the full report

7:00 P.M. Tel Aviv municipality to resume levying traffic fines after halting enforcement due to the coronavirus crisis (Bar Peleg)

People walking by the beach in Tel Aviv, May 2. 2020.
People walking by the beach in Tel Aviv, May 2. 2020. Credit: Moti Milrod

5:30 P.M. Two neighborhoods in Bedouin town designated restricted areas 

A ministerial committee declared that two neighborhoods in the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev be declared restricted areas for five days, until Sunday, May 10, a joint statement released Tuesday night by the Prime Minister's Office and the Health Ministry said. (Noa Landau)

1:50 P.M. Israeli employers of Palestinian workers now required to provide health insurance during coronavirus crisis

The cabinet approved an amendment on Monday night establishing that Israelis employing Palestinians from the West Bank during the coronavirus outbreak are required to provide them with private health insurance so they can be treated in Israel. Israel has approved the entry of a number of additional Palestinians working in construction, agriculture, or factories, as long as they remain throughout the entire month of Ramadan. According to a statement by the Housing Ministry, a contractor will be able to hire workers for a cycle of three weeks, at the end of which workers will return home for a break. Earlier this week, the Housing Ministry said construction workers will work in set groups of 10, with each group living together and sharing rides to reduce the risk of a broad outbreak. It is not clear who will be overseeing these conditions, however. Some 8,500 Palestinian workers entered Israel on Sunday as part of the new arrangement, according to estimates.  (Hagar Shezaf)

1:10 P.M. Iran death toll from new coronavirus outbreak rises by 63 to 6,340

The death toll from the outbreak of new coronavirus in Iran rose by 63 in the past 24 hours to 6,340, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur has said in a statement on state TV. The total number of diagnosed cases in Iran, one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak in the Middle East, has reached 99,970, he said. (Reuters)

11:35 A.M. Lebanon set to extend coronavirus shutdown until May 24

 Lebanon's supreme defense council will advise the government to extend a shutdown to curb the spread of coronavirus by two weeks until May 24, a security source says after the council convened on Tuesday. A decision is expected at a cabinet meeting later on Tuesday. (Reuters)

11:10 A.M. Number of cases in Israel rises to 16,268, death toll to 237

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by eight to 16,268. Another two people have died raising the death toll to 237. There are 66 patients on ventilators. There were 8,322 tests done on Monday, according to the Health Ministry, up from 8,018 a day earlier. (Haaretz)

An Israeli hairdresser cuts a customer's hair in his shop in Jerusalem, after the government eased some lockdown measures imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, April 26, 2020.
An Israeli hairdresser cuts a customer's hair in his shop in Jerusalem, after the government eased some lockdown measures imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, April 26, 2020. Credit: AFP

10:00 A.M. Intelligence subcommittee approves extending Shin Bet tracking for three weeks

A Knesset subcommittee has approved extending emergency regulations allowing the Shin Bet security service to continue tracking coronavirus patients' phones for three weeks, rather than the six weeks the government requested. The Intelligence Subcommittee, part of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is chaired by Kahol Lavan lawmaker Gabi Ashkenazi. (Jonathan Lis)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:47 A.M. Health Ministry plans widespread testing for antibodies

The Health Ministry plans to launch a campaign of widespread antibody testing over the next two weeks to help estimate the level of infection among the public. The tests will initially be done in hot spot areas and among groups who come into regular contact with the public, like medical staff and police officers. The tests are supposed to be used only as part of a general overview of infection and not for specific diagnoses.

Last month Israel purchased 2.4 million FDA-approved antibody testing kids for 110 million shekels (about $31 million). According to a Health Ministry source, these kits are being checked to make sure they meet requirements and will likely enter use in a week or two. (Ido Efrati)

5:11 A.M. Palestinian President Abbas extends emergency regulations in West Bank by 30 days 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued an order to extend the coronavirus emergency regulations by 30 days, as part of the Palestinian Authority’s battle to stem the virus.

The order prohibits mass gatherings and events, as well as holding prayer services in churches and mosques. The move comes despite the fact that no significant spike in new confirmed coronavirus was registered in the West Bank, with most new cases recorded in the Jerusalem area.

Nevertheless, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh advised Abbas to extend the emergency regulations over fears of a renewed outbreak amid the loosening of discipline and the month of Ramadan.

Protesters attend a protest in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of Israel's Supreme Court, Jerusalem, April 30, 2020
Protesters attend a protest in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of Israel's Supreme Court, Jerusalem, April 30, 2020Credit: The Associated Press/ Ariel Schalit

A significant movement of people was spotted in the past few days on main streets in Hebron and Nablus, and business owners clashed with the police for opening their gates without approval.

Last week, Shtayyeh announced some steps to ease lockdown measures due to mounting public pressure to resume routine, with Palestinians dreading the ramifications of the economic crisis expected to hit the PA due to the pandemic. (Jack Khoury)

MONDAY

9:25 P.M. Netanyahu announces easing of coronavirus restrictions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday the further easing of coronavirus restrictions which will come into effect on Thursday.

Israelis will be able to leave the home without limitations on distance, as well as visit elderly relatives whilst maintaining social distancing measures.

Markets and malls will be opened on Thursday. In addition, public gatherings of up to 20 people will be permitted in open spaces, along with weddings and funerals attended by no more than 50 people.

On May 10, kindergartens will reopen, Netanyahu said, with the rest of the education system and academia resuming activity by mid-June.

Netanyahu also presented the conditions under which Israel will be forced to consider reimposing restrictions. These included 100 new cases a day that do not come from known hot spots such as Bnei Brak or certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem, a doubling in the infection rate within 10 days and 250 patients in severe condition. 

The prime minister said that if easing current restrictions does not lead to a higher death rate, in two weeks the government would allow gatherings of up to 50 people, as opposed to the groups of twenty people that will be permitted to meet as of Thursday. Following this, on May 31 up to 100 people will be permitted to convene, and the limit on people allowed to congregate will be completely removed on June 14, if things go according to plan.

"We are gradually bringing back sports and recreation," Netanyahu said. "We will be publishing accurate guidelines on parks, museums, libraries and sporting facilities. These will be opened gradually, until mid-June." He added that the government is also considering resuming flights abroad, explaining that "we want to do this carefully and not jeopardize Israeli citizens."

Government ministers have approved the easing of restrictions announced by Netanyahu, but the final regulations have not yet been published. They are expected to be published tomorrow after legal approval is given. (Noa Landau)

9:01 P.M. 44 new cases of coronavirus detected, more than half of those diagnosed recovered

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel reached 16,246, 10,064 of which have recovered, according to Health Ministry figures. On Monday, 44 new cases were discovered, 404 recovered and 70 are on ventilators. So far, 235 people have died.

8:45 P.M. Eight more cases of coronavirus found in West Bank

The Palestinian Health Ministry said eight more people tested positive for the coronavirus in the Hebron area, raising the total number of cases in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to 515. In the Gaza Strip the number of cases stands at 17, 12 of which have recovered. 

The Palestinian president is expected to decide Monday evening or in the coming days on the issue of extending emergency regulations. (Jack Khoury)

8:07 P.M. Neyanyahu to annouce easing of restrictions, take questions

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is expected to announced the further easing of coronavirus restrictions in a television statement at 8:45 P.M. Monday. 

For the first time since the coronavirus crisis began, Netanyahu will be answering reporters' questions after he concludes his announcement.

7:00 P.M. Israel to begin mass coronavirus antibody testing 

The Health Ministry is expected to begin extensive serological (antibody) testing over the next two weeks. Testing will initially focus on hot spots with increased morbidity, as well as on groups that are in contact with the general public, such as medical personnel and police. 

The tests will be used to establish a general idea of the condition of the coronavirus in Israel, and not for the individual diagnosis.

Last month, Israel purchased 2.4 million serological tests amounting to 110 million shekels ($ 31.2 million), with the purpose of using them to help get a better picture of the situation during the crisis. These are tests that were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after Israel purchased the tests.

According to a Health Ministry official, at this stage the tests are in the process of being validated to make sure they meet the manufacturer's conditions, and are expected to start being used within a week to two weeks.

As part of this, approximately 5,000 tests are planned to be conducted in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, and thousands of other tests in other localities defined as hot spots.

Currently, serological tests are performed on some patients and hospital staff, including as a complementary screening test (PCR) whose reliability is approximately 70%. Originally, the serological tests in the medical community were marked as being used to release populations from the quarantine, with a test to confirm the existence of antibodies that indicate a patient's immunity to virus.

In practice, there is currently no certainty that the presence of antibodies does indeed indicate immunity from further infection, and the World Health Organization has determined that there is still no evidence that the existence of the antibody necessarily indicates immunity to the virus. (Ido Efrati)

3:22 P.M. Education Ministry says 195,000 students attended school today

Students in 11th and 12th grade returned to school today, while students in grades 1 to 3 returned on Sunday.

2:55 P.M. Special education teacher diagnosed with coronavirus

A teacher in a fourth grade special education class at a school for girls in Modi'in Ilit has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

The teacher and students returned to class on April 22. On April 26, the teacher's husband felt ill, but after checking with a doctor the teacher arrived at school anyway. The teacher's husband was diagnosed with COVID-19 the next day. She entered isolation and subsequently tested positive for the virus.

The entire class, along with the teaching staff, which gathered in the break room, were sent to quarantine.

1:22 P.M. Government requests extending Shin Bet surveillance by six weeks

Following cabinet discussions, the government asked the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to extend the emergency regulation that allows the Shin Bet security service to monitor coronavirus patients for six weeks, until June 16, or until legislation is completed (whichever is soonest). (Jonathan Lis)

1:00 P.M. Intelligence subcommittee to meet to discuss Shin Bet surveillance on Tuesday

The Intelligence Subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, chaired by Kahol Lavan lawmaker Gabi Ashkenazi, will meet at 8:00 A.M. on Tuesday to discuss the government's request to continue using the Shin Bet security service's surveillance capabilities to track coronavirus patients. (Jonathan Lis)

12:25 P.M. Draft regulations show cabinet planning to extending Shin Bet Surveillance by six weeks, cancel 100-meter restriction

According to draft regulations that are currently being discussed at the cabinet meeting, regulations that allow the Shin Bet security service to track coronavirus patients will be extended by six weeks, until the legislation is completed.

This is after the High Court ruled surveillance would be prohibited without legislation. The draft has not yet been approved by government ministers.

It also reveals that the possibility of imposing lockdowns on localities affected by high rates of morbidity will also be extended. In addition, according to the draft, the rule prohibiting residents from going more than 100 meter from their homes is expected to be repealed.

Libraries, shopping malls, markets, nature reserves, gyms and some pools should reopen by Friday. (Noa Landau)

12:23 P.M. Transportation arrangements for schools to resume on Tuesday

Shuttles to and from educational institutions will gradually start again on Tuesday, Israeli authorities announced. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia

11:26 A.M. Israel confirms 29 new cases, death toll rises to 234

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel went up to 16,237 on Monday morning, Health Ministry figures show, with the total death toll standing at 234. 

9,858 have recovered, and 72 are currently on life-support.  

11:22 A.M. Leaders of Israeli-Arab towns protest outside Finance Ministry

The heads of Israeli-Arab regional councils held a demonstration outside the Finance Ministry over the government's failure to budget proper funds to Arab municipalities to combat the coronavirus crisis. The council leaders said that of the 2.2 billion shekels budgeted to combat the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis, only 1.7 percent was earmarked for Arab towns.

The heads of the Arab municipalities announced over the weekend that they were calling a general strike, to begin on Monday, including in schools.

11:15 A.M. Ministers considering opening malls and markets on Friday

Among other items related to the gradual reopening of Israel's economy, the cabinet is discussing regulations permitting the opening of malls, markets, hotels and gyms from this Friday.

This is based on a Finance Ministry roadmap. The Health Ministry recommends resuming operations only from May 17. 

9:49 A.M. Cabinet to discuss extending Shin Bet tracking

At 11 A.M., Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will chair cabinet discussions on passing legislation to allow the Shin Bet security service to continue tracking Israeli citizens as part of efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

If legislation is approved, surveillance could continue even after the country returns to routine. The Shin Bet is carrying out the practice based on an administrative order that is due to expire, but the High Court of Justice is now requiring that it be enshrined in legislation. It ordered the government on Sunday to launch a process to do so by Thursday, sparking Netanyahu to reportedly consider ending the tracking altogether.

The cabinet will also debate new guidelines and restrictions, as well as stimulus measures for the economy. (Noa Landau)

Read the full report

9:36 A.M. Israeli hospital resumes elective procedures

The Hillel Yaffe Medical Center announced it would resume elective procedures, including non-urgent surgery and IVF. 

Israel's Health Ministry lifted its freeze on non-essential procedures, thanks to a decrease in the morbidity of the coronavirus. (Noa Shpigel)

3:09 A.M. Trump 'confident' coronavirus vaccine will be ready 'by the end of this year'

"We are very confident that we're going to have a vaccine at the end of the year," U.S. President Donald Trump told a virtual town hall broadcast on Fox News.  

Public health officials have said a vaccine could take at least a year. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. health expert on infectious diseases, on Thursday told CNN that a vaccine could be ready by January, but cautioned that "I can't guarantee it." (DPA)

2:11 A.M. Pompeo: 'Significant' evidence coronavirus emerged from Chinese lab

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was "a significant amount of evidence" that the new coronavirus emerged from a Chinese laboratory, but did not dispute U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that it was not man-made. (Reuters)

>> Click here to read the full report

SUNDAY

11:15 P.M. Israel confirms 29 new coronavirus cases 

Israel confirmed 29 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 16,208. 9,749 people have recovered leaving 6,227 active.

Currently, 94 patients are in serious condition, with 76 of them on life support. So far, 232 people with COVID-19 died. (Haaretz)

9:05 P.M. Education Ministry says 60% of designated students came back to school, but figures show it was less than a quarter

Israel's Education Ministry said that 60% of students were present at school on Sunday, and Education Minister Rafi Peretz emphasized that 80% of the schools had been opened. 

However, a look at the official data shows that only 23% of first-through-third graders and students in 11th and 12th grade attended. Only half of the country's elementary schools opened, and only a few of the high schools were active. 

A closer look reveald that the Education Ministry's figures were based only addressed on public Jewish elementary schools, and only those who had decided in advance to open their doors today - without taking into account the dozens of school districts that remained shut because of a lack of proper guidelines and time to prepare. (Lior Dattal)

8:15 P.M. Netanyahu talks with independent, small business representatives, says will adopt ‘American model’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a video call meeting with representatives of independant and small business owners to discuss the economic impact of the coronavirus. "I think we've done a lot better than most countries in the world, the results show that, but there are some things we can learn from them,” said Netanyahu during the call. 

“The main thing we can learn from Americans is that when they allocated money, they also distributed it much more efficiently. For us, the division was contingent on all kinds of criteria and all kinds of processes, whether through the banks, or through the clerks or both. What we want to do and are about to do is drastically change it and actually adopt an American model that transfers money much more directly,” added the prime minister.

The meeting also included Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Economy Minister Eli Cohen, Director General of the Prime Minister's Office and the National Economic Council. (Noa Landau)

7:30 P.M. Emergency regulations for Lag Ba'omer include ministerial committee that can approve exceptions 

The draft emergency regulations for the Lag Ba'omer holiday, which are pending government approval, prohibit the ritual of starting fires in public spaces and restricts entrance to Mount Meron, a holy site for the holiday.

However, it states that a committee of ministers that will include outgoing Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, Interior Minister Arye Dery, Bezalel Smotrich and Religious Services Minister Yitzhak Waknin can authorize exceptions to celebrate in Mount Meron.

In addition, an increase in the maximum number of participants in holiday celebrations is being considered, for fear that the public will not comply with existing restrictions. (Noa Landau)

6:32 P.M. Jordan lifts all curbs on economic activity

Jordan said on Sunday it had lifted all restrictions on economic activity in the latest easing of coronavirus lockdown rules to help jump-start the cash-strapped economy.

Jordan has in the last two weeks been lifting restrictions to allow businesses back to work, but with lower levels of staff and strict social distancing and hygiene guidelines. (Reuters)

5:46 P.M. Five more cases diagnosed in East Jerusalem, Palestinian Health Ministry says

The new cases bring the total number of cases in the West Bank to 505, a statement by the ministry said. The PA does not differentiate between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. 

Out of those, 94 had recovered. (Jack Khoury)

2:11 P.M. Finance Ministry seeks to reopen restaurants at end of May

According to the plan proposed by the Finance Ministry, shopping malls, universities, nature reserves and parks will be opened on Tuesday. Middle schools, Kindergartens and daycares will resume activity on May 10, followed by hotels, gyms, libraries, museums, cultural establishments and community center on May 17.

High schools will reopen on May 31, along with restaurants, bars, event venues, movie theaters.

The ministry's plan, as well as recommendations made by the Health Ministry, still have to be discussed and approved by the government. (Avi Waksman)

1:52 P.M. Health Ministry recommends new easements on social distancing

In a document prepared for the next government meeting on coronavirus restrictions, the Health Ministry recommended to allow gatherings in groups of up to ten people, as well as having contact with elderly population while excercising caution as of this week.

The document also calls to allow weddings and funeral of up to 50 people in open spaces as of May 17, and to permit restaurants to open on June 15. (Ido Efrati)

11:28 A.M. As Israel's schools reopen, Education Ministry belatedly issues guidelines

Israel's schools reopened for the first time in seven weeks on Sunday, with grades 1 up to 3 and 11 and 12 resuming their studies and the rest being scheduled to return later this month.

Israel is one of the first countries in the world to order the reopening of schools after an extended period of lockdown, but many districts refused to reopen in the absence of clear health guidelines from the Education Ministry, which were published late on Sunday morning only after schools were opened.

Schools in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be'er Sheva and Bnei Brak remain shuttered. Schools in Arab localities are not reopening either, and some have asked to delay the return until after Ramadan. According to the Education Ministry, 80 percent of schools in Israel reopened. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

9:39 A.M. Slight increase in number of coronavirus cases in Israel 

Israel confirmed 8 new coronavirus cases Sunday morning, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 16,193. 9,634 people have recovered, and 6,329 are still active.

105 patients are in serious condition, with 82 of them on life support. 230 people with COVID-19 died so far. (Haaretz)

7:48 A.M. Gov't approves extending emergency regulations until Monday

The Israeli government approved on Sunday overnight to extend the emergency regulations to tackle the coronavirus for another 24 hours, until Monday. It also decided to postpone opening businesses in Arab communities during the month of Ramadan, from 6:00 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. (Noa Landau)

SATURDAY

11:02 P.M. Israel's Education Ministry delays directives for reopening schools

The Education Ministry had not issued directives for reopening schools as of late Saturday night, despite ministers approving the reopening of schools Sunday morning, amid mounting chaos and criticism from teachers, parents and municipalities.

“The directives will be published overnight, or by the morning at the latest,” the ministry stated on Saturday.

The ministerial committee dealing with the coronavirus approved Friday the reopening on Sunday of grades 1 through 3 and 11th and 12th grades – but not kindergartens, as had originally been planned. 

However, schools will not be opening Sunday in several major cities. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

>> Click here to read the full report

10:40 P.M. Restriction barring seniors from coming to work lifted

The cabinet approved lifting a restriction that prevented senior citizens from coming to work due to fears that they would contract the coronavirus.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, who pushed for the restriction to be lifted, said, "There is no reason that senior citizens without other risk factors shouldn't return to work. The restriction discriminated on the basis of age and hurt seniors financially and socially." (Noa Landau)

10:10 P.M. Many more women than men in the ranks of Israel's coronavirus lay-offs, figures show

Nearly 30 percent more women than men have been laid off or placed on unpaid leave since the start of the coronavirus crisis in Israel. According to figures provided by the Israel Employment Service at the request of Haaretz, 116,000 more women than men filed for unemployment benefits in March and April.

The data, which covers the period up to April 16, show that 535,000 women and 419,000 men lost their jobs, meaning that women account for 56 percent of the newly unemployed while men account for 44 percent, even though the numbers of women and men in Israel are nearly equal. In the two months preceding the virus crisis, the unemployment picture was more balanced, with women accounting for 50.6 percent. (Lee Yaron)

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9:20 P.M. 84 new cases diagnosed in Israel over 24 hours

Israel confirmed 84 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 16,185. 9,593 of them have recovered so far, and 6,363 are still considered active.

105 patients are in serious condition, with 82 of them on life support. 229 Israelis with COVID-19 died so far. (Haaretz)

3:10 P.M. Arab local councils to call general strike on Tuesday

The heads of the Arab local councils are calling a general strike and a strike of municipal functions beginning Tuesday in protest of Israel's failure to appropriate proper funds to cover losses due to the coronavirus. 

In addition, the 16 Druze and Circassian municipalities in Israel announced that they will strike on Sunday in protest of the "government's refusal to address their demands."

The heads of the Arab local councils are demanding reimbursement and damages for the loss of municipal property tax payments from business owners who were forced to close their doors under the coronavirus restrictions.

In an urgent address to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Dery, the council heads claimed that the Interior Ministry budgeted 2.82 billion shekels ($804 million) to aid local municipalities, and that only 47 million were earmarked for Arab municipalities – about 1.7 percent. The municipalities estimate their losses at about 70 million shekels per month since the crisis began. (Jack Khoury)

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1:50 P.M. Coronavirus infection rate surges by over 40 percent within three days in Bedouin town

The Health Ministry said that the coronavirus infection in the Bedouin reginal council of Hura in the Negev has jumped by 43.5 percent, with 30 new patients diagnosed in the past three days. (Haaretz)

1:20 P.M. Iran coronavirus deaths rise by 65 to 6,156

Iran's death toll from new coronavirus increased by 65 in the past 24 hours to 6,156 on Saturday, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV.

The total number of diagnosed cases in Iran, one of the hardest hit Middle Eastern countries, has reached 96,448, he said, adding that 2,787 were in critical condition. (Reuters)

10:23 A.M. Number of Israel’s confirmed coronavirus cases rises to 16,152, more than half have recovered 

The Health Ministry said that so far 16,152 Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, with 148 new cases registered in the last 24 hours.

Of the total cases registered, 9,400 people have recovered, leaving 6,525 active coronavirus cases in Israel.

So far, 227 Israelis have died from the virus, 107 are in serious condition, 84 of whom are on ventilators. (Haaretz)

A man gets his hair cut in Jerusalem on April 26, 2020.
A man gets his hair cut in Jerusalem on April 26, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Medical staff hug in a coronavirus-dedicated ward at Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, April 21, 2020.
Medical staff hug in a coronavirus-dedicated ward at Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, April 21, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

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