Israel COVID Live: Israelis May Be Able to Forgo Masks Outdoors Next Week, Pandemic Czar Says

Israel vaccine data: Number of serious cases drops to four-month low ■ 52 percent fully vaccinated ■ New COVID infections in Gaza Strip climb to record level ■ High Court rules fines given to protesters during lockdown were illegal ■ Schools loosen restrictions as cases drop

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Israelis at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City last week.
Israelis at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

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Months into its mass coronavirus vaccination campaign, Israel sees a drop in COVID infections and in the number of serious cases. Israel has reopened commerce and culture for vaccinated people, and lifted most restrictions on flights. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 6,248 Israelis have died of the virus.

Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have received 30,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by Israel, as well as shipments of over 160,000 vaccines via the COVAX scheme. A total of 2,336 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 630 have died in Gaza.

LIVE UPDATES

2:48 P.M. Israelis will likely able to forgo masks outdoors next week, pandemic czar says

Israel's COVID czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said on Monday that he believes that the decision to forgo wearing masks outdoors will be passed by next week, after it was recommended by the Health Ministry's pandemic taskforce.

However, Ash stressed that wearing masks indoors will remain mandatory for the time being. "We want to see how the first phase goes and then we'll see what's next," Ash told the Ynet news site. (Haaretz)

10:38 A.M. Number of serious cases drops to four-month low

The number of Israelis suffering from a severe case of COVID-19 has dropped to a four-month low, according to Health Ministry data published on Monday. (Haaretz)

SUNDAY

5:36 P.M. Military launching pilot program exempting some units from mask requirement

The military is set to begin a three-month pilot program exempting some units from wearing masks starting on Monday. The program will exempt training units and combat units from wearing masks during training exercises and outdoor activities, under the condition that at least 90 percent of the soldiers taking part are vaccinated or recovered.

Social distancing guidelines will not be changed. Soldiers from such units will still have to wear masks indoors. The Health Ministry approved the program under the condition that the military track infections among the units involved in the program and provide a weekly report to the ministry. (Ido Efrati)

4:34 P.M. High Court rules fines given to protesters during lockdown were illegal

The High Court of Justice ruled on Sunday that the ban on protesters traveling over 1,000 meters from their homes during the country's second lockdown last year was illegal, and that it will not be possible to impose it in the future. The nine-justice panel also found that limits on the number of participants in protests during the lockdown were acceptable, as it was meant to ensure social distancing.

The justices ruled that all fines handed out to protesters for violating the distance ban must be nullified, and that the government must return fines that have already been paid.

In October, the government barred protesters from attending demonstrations taking place more than 1,000 meters away from their homes for a period of two weeks, following an amendment passed by the Knesset in late September. During other lockdowns that imposed distance restrictions, people were allowed to travel further if they were attending a protest. (Netael Bandel)  

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4:21 P.M. New coronavirus infections in Gaza Strip climb to record level 

The number of new coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip has risen to a record high. According to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory on Sunday, 1,628 new cases were registered within 24 hours, more than ever before in one day.

According to the information, a total of 3,728 tests were carried out on Saturday, of which about 44 per cent were positive. Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 630 people have died in the narrow coastal strip after being infected with the coronavirus, according to the ministry.

According to the ministry, 81,600 COVID-19 vaccine doses are available in the Gaza Strip, and a total of more than 24,000 inhabitants have been vaccinated so far.The United Arab Emirates had donated tens of thousands of doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik. (DPA)

4:05 P.M. Third-graders returning to class without pods as cases drop

Third-graders will be attending classes without being separated into pods for the first time since restrictions on schools began when they return from the Passover break on Monday. In light of a steady drop in new coronavirus cases, the Health MInistry is considering expanding this to additional grades after examining the effects of canceling pods for third-graders. (Ido Efrati)

11:19 A.M. Palestinian town struggling in battle against COVID

Not one empty bed is left in the coronavirus wards in Tul Karm in the West Bank. The city has two hospitals: a government-run one where a coronavirus ward was opened at the beginning of the pandemic, and one run by the Red Crescent Society that was converted into a coronavirus hospital when the government one was full.

The city has seven ventilators, 10 intensive care beds and only 33 beds in its coronavirus wards. Over the past week, 17 people in the district died of COVID-19, and the city is now under curfew at night and on weekdnds. The entire West Bank is at 94 percent occupancy for coronavirus beds at hospitals – in intensive care wards the number is 100 percent.

Social activists in the city note a shortage of basic equipment in the hospitals, some of it mundane like tables to eat on and adult diapers for older people in the coronavirus wards.

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