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, but some restrictions remain on inbound and outbound flights. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 6,062 Israelis have died of the virus.
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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 a shipment of 60,000 vaccines via the COVAX scheme. A total of 2,018 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 572 have died in Gaza.
- ‘Countries that let Israelis in want their tourists to be able to come here’
- With nearly half of Israelis fully vaccinated, coronavirus cases plummet
- Israel faces next major COVID challenge: Vaccinating 600,000 teens under 16
6:53 P.M. Gov't approves new COVID regulations for sport and culture
The government approved new COVID regulations for cultural and sporting events, which will be taking effect on Friday at 5:00 P.M.
Indoor arenas with up to 5,000 seats will be allowed to host 1,000 guests. Arenas with a capacity of over 5,000 seats can accommodate 3,000 people.
Stadiums and open-air events with 10,000 seats will be able to let in 3,000 guests, while those with a capacity of more than 10,000 seats can accommodate 30 percent of its normal capacity, or up to 5,000 people. (Judy Maltz)
5:27 P.M. Israel says it vaccinated 105,000 Palestinian workers with first dose
Israel has administered the first dose of the COVID vaccine to 105,000 Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel or in West Bank settlements, completing the first stage of its campaign to vaccinate them, the Coordinator for Government Activity in the Territories – the government body that oversees civilian matters in the West Bank – said Thursday.
On April 4, the dedicated vaccination centers – eight at checkpoints, and five within settlements – will reopen so the second doses can start being given, according to the COGAT statement. (Haaretz)
4:00 P.M. Three months into vaccine campaign, COVID numbers drop
Israel is seeing a drop in COVID numbers three months into its nationwide vaccination campaign.
The number of new daily COVID cases dropped to 1,496, while the percentage of positive test results dropped to 1.6 percent. The number of active cases also declined and currently stands at 24,003. (Haaretz)
1:34 P.M. Nearly half of Israelis have received second vaccine dose
More than half of Israel's population has been inoculated with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 47.4 percent of Israelis have received their second jab, according to data released by the Health Ministry.
According to the latest figures from Thursday, Israel has inoculated over 5.1 million people (55.4 percent of the population), with more than 75,000 people receiving a jab on Wednesday. Of the overall figure, nearly 4.4 million people (47.4 percent of the population) have received the second dose of the vaccine. (Haaretz)
10:35 A.M. Israeli cases rise by 1,200, death toll rises by nine
There were 1,200 new coronavirus cases confirmed in Israel on Wednesday, while the death toll rose by nine to 6,062.
There are 579 patients in serious condition, including 196 on ventilators. The percentage of positive tests has dropped to 2 percent.
There were 18,197 vaccinations on Wednesday, bringing the number of people who have received the first dose to 5.15 million and those who have received the second to 4.38 million. (Haaretz)
10 P.M. Israel faces its next major challenge: Vaccinating 600,000 teens
In a few months, if everything goes as planned, Israel’s public health system is expected to enter a new phase in its vaccination campaign against the coronavirus and begin vaccinating about 600,000 young people ages 12 through 15.
Following the campaign to vaccinate those 16 and over, this time the challenge isn’t a logistical one and doesn’t involve any uncertainly regarding the availability of the vaccine. Instead, what’s ahead is a public relations effort to explain the importance of getting vaccinated to the recipients, or in this case, to their parents. (Ido Efrati)
5:30 P.M. COVID czar slams High Court ruling on travel restrictions
Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said that Wednesday’s High Court ruling striking down restrictions on entering the country is “worrisome,” as it may lead to a rise in infection rates and possibly bring into Israel “dangerous” COVID-19 strains.
“We’ve taken many steps to prevent it, and it’s a shame that now we’re putting at risk” the progress made in curbing infection rates, Ash said in a statement. “The High Court’s decision might bring Israel closer to a renewed outbreak.” (Ido Efrati)
2:20 P.M. Top court strikes down COVID restrictions on entry and departure from Israel
Israel's High Court ruled Wednesday that the 3,000 person quota for arrivals to Israel and limitations on leaving the country for those who have not yet been vaccinated for the coronavirus is unconstitutional.
A panel of judges led by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut ruled that Israel cannot extend the limitations after they expire on Sunday - two days before Israel's election.
In a damning verdict, the judges noted that "Israel is the only democratic country in the world where the right of citizens to enter their country has been so sweepingly restricted."
On the figure of 3,000, the judges stated that this was set by the government before they had gathered data on the number of nationals who were stuck abroad, and ordered any future restrictions to be based on updated and comprehensive facts.
The judges also ruled that "a balance must be struck between the damage that may be caused by the infiltration of an unknown coronavirus strain, and the violation of the fundamental rights of the state's citizens and residents." (Netael Bandel)
11:45 A.M. Israel approves digital surveillance of all arrivals during quarantine
The Israeli Knesset passed a bill Wednesday allowing digital surveillance of all arrivals to Israel who are mandated to enter coronavirus quarantine.
Arrivals to Israel who are sent to quarantine in their homes will be equipped with digital tracking bracelets or other digital tracking means, including through cell phones.
The law limits the use of the surveillance data to purposes of enforcement alone and the data can be saved for up to a month. Anyone who refuses the digital surveillance will be required to enter a state-run quarantine facility.
The law also stipulates that information will be destroyed in real-time, as long as no violations occur. In the case of a breach, the data will be passed on to the relevant authorities.
While the Health Ministry will be permitted to contact technological companies to produce additional means of digital surveillance, this will be limited to measures which do not "collect information beyond what is necessary."
Children under the age of 14 will be exempt, as well as those who receive special permission from the exemptions committee.
At a Constitution Committee meeting on Thursday, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch estimated that 5,000 digital bracelets will be available for use from this week, and that the around 30,000 more will be acquired over the next three months. (Jonathan Lis)
11:30 A.M. Palestinians won't use AstraZeneca until further word from WHO, Health Minister says
The Palestinian Authority's Health Minister, Dr. Mai al-Kaila, said on Wednesday that they will await World Health Organization approval before using their incoming doses of AstraZeneca vaccines.
The health ministry, al-Kaila told Palestinian radio, will instead utilize the Pfizer vaccine and the Russian Sputnik V jabs to finish inoculating the medical staff. The ministry will then move onto those with chronic diseases.
Several countries are deliberating whether to press ahead with using the AstraZeneca shot, or whether to suspend their inoculations based on reports of dangerous blood clots in a few recipients. A European regulator said on Tuesday there was “no indication” the shot was responsible for the phenomenon.
As coronavirus continues to ravage the West Bank, the health minister also noted that hospital occupancy is at 115 percent in Ramallah, Al-Bireh and Jericho, while 44 percent of patients in intensive care units are on ventilators.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority reported 1,891 new cases and 20 deaths in the West Bank, after a partial lockdown was announced earlier in the week. (Hagar Shezaf and Jack Khoury)
10:22 A.M. 60,000 COVAX vaccines en route to Palestinians
60,000 vaccines from the World Health Organization's COVAX initiative, earmarked for the Palestinian Authority, arrived in Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday morning.
The Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs are en route to the Beitunia crossing in the West Bank, facilitated by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
Around 20,000 of the shipment will be transferred to Gaza later on Wednesday.
The World Health Organization set up COVAX along with the GAVI vaccine alliance to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations globally. (Jack Khoury)
9:35 A.M. With nearly half of population fully vaxxed, cases plummet
Data released by the Israeli Army on Wednesday showed daily COVID-19 cases, infection rate and rate of positive tests continuing to decline, as the number of fully vaccinated Israelis approaches half the population.
According to the data, the R-number, which reflects the average number of people each coronavirus patient infects and therefore how fast the virus is spreading, dropped to 0.7.
The data also revealed that only 2.1 percent of coronavirus tests returned positive in the past day, the lowest figure in months.
The data also revealed a drop in the number of actively ill Israelis, the number of Israelis in serious condition and the number of patients that required hospitalization.
On Tuesday, half of all new cases represented those aged 19 and under, although very few people from the age bracket became seriously ill.
As of Wednesday morning, 47 percent of Israelis have received both doses of the vaccine, with 55 percent receiving at least one dose.(Haaretz)