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Israel sees a steady rise in coronavirus cases and has entered its third national lockdown, while an ambitious vaccination campaign is underway.
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Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza wait to receive vaccines, which could take at least a few more months, as authorities struggle to keep infection rates low.
Israel currently has 83,611 active cases; 3,959 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 6,802 active cases and 1,348 deaths, and in Gaza 7,000 active cases and 464 deaths.
8:12 A.M. Israeli Health Ministry releases latest coronavirus numbers
8,398 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, according to data released by the Israeli Health Ministry Saturday night. 1,184 coronavirus patients are in critical condition.
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3,959 Israelis have died from COVID-19, and there are 83,611 active cases currently in Israel. (Haaretz)
10 P.M. Likud and Joint List lawmakers attended a traditional Arab reconciliation ceremony in violation of lockdown restrictions
Likud and Joint List lawmakers attended a mass reconciliation ceremony intended to resolve a dispute among rivaling Arab clans on Saturday, in violation of lockdown restrictions.
The ceremony, attended by dozens of people, was held in a closed hall in the Lower Galilee village of Kabul,Likud and Joint List lawmakers attended a mass reconciliation ceremony on Saturday intended to resolve dispute in violation of lockdown restrictions. in violation of lockdown restrictions that allow gatherings of up to five people in a closed building.
According to one of the event’s organizers, the police knew about the event and police vehicles that were in the area did not stop it. Despite the criticism, the Arab community saw the ceremony as a step towards preventing bloodshed, after two people were killed and dozens injured in the long-running conflict between the locality’s two rivaling clans.
A member of the national sulha committee said that many of Kabul’s residents unexpectedly joined the ceremony to see if the sulha took place. "This was about saving lives. If we were to evict them it would have increased tensions," he said. The organization said that "the issue will be examined and, as necessary, will be dealt with accordingly."
Sources in the Northern District Police confirmed that they knew about the ceremony and that they wanted to alleviate tensions in Kabul, but added that they did not approve the attendance of dozens of people. (Jack Khoury)
7:50 P.M. 47-year-old COVID patient dies after ventilator disconnected, staff only noticed minutes later
A coronavirus patient whose ventilator disconnected, with medical staff noticing only minutes later, died on Saturday.
Noting the “high number of simultaneous alerts in the intensive care unit” Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said medical staff “busy responding to emergency alerts regarding other patients” were able to free up and detect the disconnection only after a few minutes. They added that following the incident, the patient’s condition deteriorated and he underwent resuscitation, but died a few hours later. The patient, 47, had been admitted to the hospital last week in serious condition.
Following the incident, the hospital said that its wards are facing a "heavy load that challenges the staff," and that it will increase the number of staff in the coronavirus wards by proportionately reducing hospital activity and beds.
The incident occurred amid complaints of increasingly cramped coronavirus hospital wards across the country, as the number of patients in serious condition continues to climb upward.
Last week, doctors refused to connect two patients in serious condition to ECMO devices that support heart and lung activity, citing a lack of personnel to provide treatment.
In recent weeks, the number of hospitalized patients in serious condition has increased by more than 300 patients, and today reached 1,082 people, 247 of whom require mechanical ventilation.
Since Friday, 6,815 new confirmed coronavirus cases have been recorded and 33 people have died, bringing the death toll to 3,943 people since the pandemic began, according to figures released by the Health Ministry. (Bar Peleg)
6:15 P.M. Four more cases of the South African coronavirus strain found in Israel
Four more cases of the South African coronavirus variant were detected in Israel at the Health Ministry’s central virus lab using rapid sequencing, announced the Ministry on Saturday evening.
To date, a total of 12 cases of the South African mutation have been detected in Israel, including the four cases announced today.
Four of the 12 people diagnosed with the strain arrived from the United Arab Emirates, and tested positive for the virus during the preliminary test administered at Ben Gurion Airport. (Haaretz)
1:36 P.M. Israel extends vaccination campaign to people over 45
The Health Ministry announced that starting Sunday, people over 45 can get vaccinated through their health maintanance organization. On Tuesday, the 50-55 age group was given a green light to get the first dose of the vaccine.
So far, more than two million Israelis received the first dose of the vaccine, and more than 150,000 already received the second and final shot. (Ido Efrati)
10:27 A.M. Personal information of 140,000 Israeli coronavirus carriers handed over to security service without their knowledge
Information on 140,000 Israeli coronavirus carriers was handed over to the Shin Bet security service without notifying them, a Health Ministry report filed Thursday to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee shows, in violation of the law regulating the use of Shin Bet tracking.
According to a Friday statement by the committee’s chair, lawmaker Zvi Hauser, this was the result of a computer error, which was only detected this week. He said the Health Ministry now intends to notify “only some” of the people that their details have been passed on to the security service. The law stipulates that anyone whose details are handed over to Shin Bet be notified.
Hauser called on Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to provide further details on the error and on any steps his ministry intends to take to prevent any similar cases in the future.
“This is an issue of enormous public sensitivity that has been entrusted to the Health Ministry. Any such mishap deepens the crisis of public trust in the government,” Hauser said.
Last month, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee extended through January 20 an emergency law allowing the use of Shin Bet’s system to track confirmed cases. The government was meant to introduce new legislation on this matter, but that has stalled since the Knesset was dissolved in December.
The committee may extend the emergency law further until July, but some members have protested the government’s indecision on permanent legislation regulating Shin Ben tracking. (Jonathan Lis)
9:54 P.M. As minister refuses to vaccinate prisoners, cases peak in Israeli jails
More than 150 prisoners have contracted coronavirus in several different jails over the last few days – the biggest outbreak among prisoners since the pandemic broke out.
Around 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners in Ramon Prison have tested positive for COVID-19, apparently after catching it from wardens. One has been hospitalized.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana recently refused to allow prisoners aged 60 and above to be vaccinated, in defiance of Health Ministry orders. But due to pressure from the public and the High Court of Justice, Ohana began negotiating with Health Ministry officials this week to obtain thousands of doses to vaccinate prisoners and wardens. (Josh Breiner)
9:17 P.M. Sara Netanyahu gets second COVID vaccine
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara Netanyahu, received her second vaccine against COVID-19 on Thursday in Jerusalem. (Haaretz)
8:05 P.M. Following discovery of new mutation, Health Ministry recommends travelers returning from Brazil quarantine in hotels
Israel’s Health Ministry warned Thursday of a new variant of the coronavirus originating in Brazil and recommended that all travelers returning from Brazil quarantine in state-run facilities upon their return.
“Recently there have been reports of a new variant from Brazil that has been seen in Japan in travelers returning from Brazil. This variant carries a mutation that may also be significant for the rate of infection. Like the British and South African variants, this variant is being tested for the efficacy of vaccines against it,” the Health Ministry said. (Ido Efrati)
8:00 P.M. Israel reaches milestone with two million vaccinated
Israel reached a new milestone on Thursday, with two million Israelis receiving vaccinations against COVID-19.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein marked the event at a Maccabi clinic in Ramle. Netanyahu urged Israelis to be patient while promising “life will return to normal” soon.
Netanyahu also said the government is working on launching "green passports" for those who have received the vaccine, but that people should still keep social distance and wear masks since the "virus is still here." (Haaretz)
7:00 P.M. Health Minister says vaccines to be provided to prisoners beginning next week
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Wednesday that vaccines would be provided to the prison service beginning next week.
Speaking alongside the prime minister at a Clalit clinic in the central Israeli city of Ramle, Edelstein said, "Next week vaccines will be transferred to the Israel Prison Services. We are abiding by all the guidelines set forward by the committee for determining vaccine priorities, whether we like it or not." Edelstein added, "I'm not going to check which vaccines are given to guards and which are given to prisoners."
"Instead of having that arguement [regarding whether prisoners should be vaccinated], just think, if a prisoner isn't vaccinated and gets sick, then we have to waste medical staff, a respirator and a ventilator on him. We must think of that as well," Edelstein said. (Ido Efrati)
5:03 P.M. Police to step up enforcement of lockdown regulations
Israel police announced on Thursday that it would ramp up efforts to enforce lockdown regulations over the weekend, with an emphasis of preventing large gatherings, compliance with quarantine orders, and restriction of movement.
Thousands of additional forces will be deployed across the country while highways will be dotted with additional checkpoints. (Josh Breiner)
12:15 P.M. No police enforcement as dozens of ultra-Orthodox schools open despite lockdown restriction
Dozens of schools in Israel's more extreme ultra-Orthodox communities opened Thursday in violation of lockdown restrictions, while police refrained from enforcing the regulations. .
Most of the schools and yeshivas opened in Jerusalem, but there were also open institutions in Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, Ashdod, Elad and Modi'in Ilit. Over the last month, a record number of ultra-Orthodox students contracted the coronavirus, with around 500 Haredi students testing positive for the virus. Of the 4,300 students that tested positive for the coronavirus in Jerusalem, 3,600 are ultra-Orthodox.
Unlike in previous lockdowns, the schools of the mainstream Haredi community have remained closed this time around, upon the orders of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the spiritual leader of the United Torah Judaism party and leader of the non-Hasidic “Lithuanian” ultra-Orthodox community. (Aaron Rabinowitz)
11:30 A.M. Pandemic czar says stricter lockdown will likely be extended by a week
Coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash said that Israel's stricter lockdown which was supposed to end on January 21 will probably be extended by only one week.
Speaking in an interview with the news website Ynet, Ash said "I think that one more week of the tightened lockdown will be enough."
"We will closely follow the new coronavirus case numbers, and if we see a decrease in new COVID cases as well as a decrease in the number of seriously ill patients next week, I assume that we'll extend the lockdown by only one more week." (Haaretz)
8:01 P.M. Israel sees early signs that vaccination drive is slowing virus spread
The infection rate among Israelis who received the first of two coronavirus vaccine doses dropped dramatically two weeks after they were first inoculated, initial Health Ministry data released on Tuesday shows.
According to the figures, 4,484 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus within one to seven days of having been vaccinated, as compared to 3,186 people within eight to 14 days of their respective jab date. Most significantly, between 15 and 22 days from the first vaccine dose date, the figure dropped to 353 people. (Ronny Linder)
7:53 P.M. Israelis getting their second vaccine shot experience more side effects. Here's why
As Israelis begin receiving their second dose of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, they have been reporting more frequent, and sometimes more severe, side effects compared to the first dose.
According to Pfizer’s findings in clinical trials, the second “booster” dose causes physiological reactions more frequently. This is not unexpected: it is the second stage of developing an immune defense against the virus, which is intended to further hone and focuse the immune system and deepen its “memory” of the virus.
About 0.1 percent of people who received the first dose the vaccine reported developing side effects. Most of them were mild and short-lived, similar to the effects of other inoculations. These include soreness or slight local irritation, redness and a temporary restriction of movement in the injected arm.
According to Pfizer's data, the side effects experienced after the second injection are also mild and pass quickly. For most, they last a day or two after the injection, and the most common are soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, dizziness, joint paint and sometimes fever.
“These side effects – or more accurately, the response to receiving the second dose – are expected and not undesirable,” says Prof. Jonathan Gershoni, a researcher of vaccinations and viruses at Tel Aviv University. (Ido Efrati)
7:47 P.M. Israel confirms more cases of South African variant
Four new cases of Israelis infected with a variant of the coronavirus, which originated in South Africa, have been confirmed. According to the Health Ministry, this brings the total number of cases of the variant in the country to eight.
The ministry said in a statement the virus's mutations are linked to higher rates of infection, but not to more severe cases of the disease. (Haaretz)
1:30 P.M. After denial, Israel says it provided vaccines to PA
Israel has provided coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority, the government said on Tuesday, rolling back its previous claim that the Palestinians have not received any vaccines.
The government told the High Court of Justice that a shipment of 100 vaccine doses was provided in response to the Palestinians' request and that another shipment is expected to arrive in about a week and a half. The delivery was approved by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, according to the government. (Netael Bandel)
10:26 A.M. Israel's COVID czar says lockdown may be extended
Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said Wednesday that Israel's third lockdown may be extended by one more week.
Speaking in an interview to Kan public radio, Ash said that "there's a big advantage" in extending the lockdown by one more week, allowing a more extensive opening of the economy later on.
Ash also said that there is "a slight flattening of the curve," estimating that another decrease in infection rates is expected in the coming days. However, he added, the number of confirmed coronavirus patients, including the serious cases, would probably continue to be relatively high. (Haaretz)
8:32 A.M. Israel confirms over 9,000 new cases for second day in a row
The Health Ministry said that 9,025 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday, while on Monday 9,754 people tested positive, in the biggest daily spike since late September.
As of Wednesday, 1,042 people are hospitalized in serious condition, 262 of whom are on ventilators.
According to ministry data, 3,770 people have died from the virus since the pandemic broke out in Israel.
In addition, 127,768 tests were carried out on Tuesday and 1,880,163 people have been vaccinated so far. (Haaretz)
8:15 P.M. Some 52 COVID-related deaths were recorded on Tuesday alone
Israel has confirmed 7,531 people new coronavirus cases since Monday night, according to data released by the Health Ministry. Some 1,738 patients are currently hospitalized, 1,072 of whom are in serious condition and 269 on ventilators.
On Tuesday alone, 52 COVID-related deaths were recorded, bringing the total death toll to 3,756.
According to the ministry’s figures, 73,874 tests were performed on Tuesday, representing a positive rate of 7.3 percent.
As Israel’s vaccine campaign continues, 16,955 people received the first of two coronavirus jabs on Tuesday. So far about 1,900,000 people have been vaccinated. (Ido Efrati)
6:54 P.M. 17 percent of serious COVID patients got first vaccine dose, haven't developed antibodies yet, public health chief says
Some 17 percent of COVID patients hospitalized in serious condition have already received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, but have yet to develop the necessary antibodies, the Health Ministry's head of public health services said on Tuesday at a press conference.
"We know from our data that the vaccine is about 50 percent effective" after the first dose, Dr. Sharon Alroi-Preiss said, adding that out of over 1,000 cases in serious and critical condition, 180 people, or 17 percent of serious cases, have received the first dose.
According to Pfizer's findings, the vaccine reaches 52.4 percent efficiency against the virus in the first 14 days after receiving the first dose. Between day 15 and day 21, efficiency climbs to 89 percent.
Alroi-Preis added that although 73 percent of people aged 60 and over have received the first of the two coronavirus vaccine doses, that percentage is substantially lower among Arab and Haredi communities. More than 80% of the Israeli population live in so-called “red’ or “orange” zones, areas with the highest and second-highest infection rates, respectively.
As for the plan to reopen schools after lockdown is lifted, she said the education system would have to stick to the same restrictions as before, including the capsule system, because children not being vaccinated at all at this stage. However, she noted that Pfizer is currently developing vaccines for children between the ages of 12 and 15. (Ido Efrati)
2:30 P.M. Israel to vaccinate Israelis aged 50 and above, starting Wednesday
The Health Ministry said Tuesday that they will allow Israelis above 50 to get vaccinated beginning Wednesday. Until now, vaccines were distributed only to those who were 60 and above. (Ido Efrati)
12:18 P.M. Israel Police issues close to 5,000 citations in one day for lockdown violations
Israel Police said they had distributed 4,584 citations on Monday. Most of the citations were given to people who had left their residence for a reason that is not permitted under the lockdown regulations. Almost 1,400 were distributed to people who were not wearing masks.
In the statement, the police said they had deployed air units in order to monitor movements, while officers visited 3,450 businesses to ensure they were following coronavirus guidelines. Dozens were fined, while 140 were issued with a warning. The police broke up at least 110 gatherings, the statement added. (Haaretz)
10:51 A.M. Despite clashes, ultra-Orthodox schools remain open
At least a dozen religious schools in the ultra-Orthodox community opened their doors again on Tuesday, as they have done since Sunday, despite violent clashes with police in Ashdod that led to ten arrests on Monday.
No law enforcement operations have yet been reported.
Many of the schools are located in neigborhoods of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Ashdod and the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Ilit where residents do not cooperate with the state of Israel, or sometimes refuse to recognize state institutions.
Unlike in previous lockdowns, mainstream Haredi schools closed this week after a leading figure, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, instructed them to do so.
Still, in the past month, the number of ultra-Orthodox students testing positive for the coronavirus has reached unseen highs. There are about 400 new cases reported daily in schools in Jerusalem, most from the ultra-Orthodox system. (Aaron Rabinowitz)
10:20 A.M. Supreme court to debate impact of distance restrictions on demonstration rights
The Israeli Supreme Court will discuss the impact of distance limitations on the right to protest on Tuesday.
Supreme Court president, Esther Hayut, asked: “Is there justification to impose distance restrictions on the right to protest? Is there a similar restriction anywhere else in the world? Where are there the examples?”
The representative of the Knesset in the debate, Adv. Avital Sompolinsky, also said that distance restrictions “lacked enough precedents to determine.”
“We have not found a single country that limits the permissable distance from one’s home,” she added.
The justices noted that in order to limit protests during the lockdown, it is necessary to prove that the protests lead to an increase in infection rates. (Netael Bandel)
8:44 A.M. COVID-19 infections continue to climb, but serious cases fall
Israel's Health Ministry reported 1,065 new coronavirus cases since midnight, taking the total active infections to 74,639, as the number of coronavirus patients continues to rise despite the lockdown.
However, the number of patients in serious condition fell by 38 to 1,027 over the same time frame, with 247 on ventilators.
The number of reported deaths has remained stable at 3,704.
This came after the biggest daily spike in new cases in months was reported on Monday, with 9,754 new cases. (Haaretz)
11:24 P.M. Israel confirms nearly 10,000 new cases
Israel has confirmed 9,754 new coronavirus cases over the past day, according to Health Ministry figures, in the biggest daily spike since late September, with 7.2 percent of tests returning positive. The total number of active cases in the country is now at 72,363.
1,733 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, with 1,069 of them in serious condition and 262 on life support. 33 people with COVID-19 died over the past day, bringing the total number of deaths since the outbreak began to 3,704. (Ido Efrati)
10 P.M. Israel debates ‘green passports’ for inoculated Israelis
A plan to establish “green passports” for Israelis who have been vaccinated — which would allow people to travel freely within Israel and abroad, and exempt them from quarantine — is set to be discussed on Tuesday.
Heads of the health establishment presented the proposal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat on Monday, with the details set to be ironed out in a discussion on the following day.
Israelis will be eligible to apply for the document one week to six months after they received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The green passport will be available in both Hebrew and English, so that it can also be used abroad.
Among the ideas proposed by heads of the Health Ministry are the gradual reboot of the economy in stages and the prioritisation of reopening venues with pre-registration, such as cinemas and theatres, both of which will depend on the amount of passports issued. (Judy Maltz)
8:10 P.M. Israel's double-digit budget deficit swells to highest in decades
The Israeli government’s budget deficit swelled to 11.7% of gross domestic product in 2020, its biggest by that measure in 35 years, as the government spent record amounts to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the Finance Ministry said Monday.
The figures, which added up to 160.3 billion shekels ($50.4 billion), was also 9% bigger than the global average for fiscal deficits last year. It was the first time since the 1980s that Israel posted a double-digit deficit. The record was set in 1984 when it reached 14% of GDP. (Nati Tucker)
4:50 P.M. Mutation constitutes up to 20% of Israel's recent COVID-19 infections
The new coronavirus variant, originating from Britain, constitutes 10 to 20 percent of recent coronavirus cases, Israel's Health Ministry estimates. (Ido Efrati)
4:17 P.M. Israel to begin second dose of COVID-19 inoculation in nursing homes
Israel is set to begin vaccinating people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities with the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday, Magen David Adom said.
They estimate that the entire elderly population in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be vaccinated in 10 days, making Israel the first country in the world to achieve this feat.
The vaccine will also be administered to all employees of these institutions. (Ido Efrati)
4:01 P.M. Lenient police enforcement as Haredi schools remain open despite Israel's lockdown
Dozens of religious schools in some of Israel's most radical ultra-Orthodox communities remained open again on Monday, in contravention of current lockdown restrictions and despite staggering infection rates among Haredi schoolchildren.
Although police have been lax so far against such violations, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox clashed Monday afternoon with police officers who arrived to enforce the closure of a school that was operating in violation of the lockdown regulations in the southern city of Ashdod.
Six people have been detained so far for the clashes, the police said. (Aaron Rabinowitz and Almog Ben Zikri)
3:35 P.M. PA to approve Russian COVID-19 vaccine
The health ministry of the Palestinian Authority has registered the main Russian vaccine against COVID-19, known as Sputnik V, for domestic use, Russia's sovereign wealth fund said on Monday.
The first shipment of the shot is expected to arrive next month, with all deliveries expected in the first quarter of this year, said the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad. It did not disclose how many doses will be shipped to the West Bank.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and several Israeli human rights organizations spoke to Pfizer about acquiring the vaccine for the Palestinian territories, but were only offered a very limited amount, sources told Haaretz.
The PA also agreed with the British vaccine company AstraZeneca company, with the first order expected as early as January 25, but there is no official announcement yet, the same sources said. (Jack Khoury and Reuters)
11:14 A.M. Israel to start vaccinating teaching staff on Tuesday
The Health Ministry said that that teaching staff will begin receiving the coronavirus vaccine starting Tuesday.
The ministry added that teaching personnel would have to schedule an appointment through their health maintenance organizations and present an education ministry employee card or a paycheck slip. (Ido Efrati)
9:26 A.M. Israelis over 55 to start receiving COVID vaccines starting Tuesday
The Health Ministry said it would expand its vaccination drive and will start inoculation people over 55 starting Tuesday.
On Sunday, Israel received another shipment of the Pfizer vaccines, including 680,000 doses and on Thursday the first shipment of Moderna's vaccines arrived in the country. (Haaretz)
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9 A.M. Almost 2 million Israelis have received first vaccine dose
1,870,652 Israelis have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, 49,879 of them on Sunday alone, according to figures released by the Health Ministry on Monday morning.
As of Monday morning, there are 69,861 active cases in Israel. On Sunday, 92,967 tests were conducted in Israel, and of these 6,706 new coronavirus cases were recorded.
There are currently 1,715 hospitalized coronavirus patient, of whom 1,044 are in serious condition, and 251 are on ventilators. So far, 3,671 Israelis have died from the coronavirus. (Ido Efrati)
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