Coronavirus Live: Israel Sees Drop in Infections 14 Days After First Vaccine Dose

Israeli HMOs to vaccinate people over 50 beginning Wednesday ■ Palestinian Authority gives 'emergency approval' for Russian vaccine

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Israeli mounted police officers ride among people along the beach in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2021.
Israeli mounted police officers ride among people along the beach in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2021.Credit: JACK GUEZ - AFP
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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 75,410 active cases; 3,770 people have died. 1,880163 people received the first dose of the vaccine.

In the West Bank, there are 7,817 active cases and 1,312 deaths, and in Gaza 7,907 active cases and 447 deaths.

LIVE UPDATES

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 whol 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 1,880163 people have been vaccinated so far. (Haaretz) 

TUESDAY

8:55 P.M. Israel sees drop in infections 14 days after first vaccine dose

The infection rate for individuals who received the first of two coronavirus vaccine doses drops as time elapses from the jab, most notably following the lapse of 14 days, preliminary figures released by the Health Ministry on Tuesday show.

According to the figures, to date, 4,484 people were diagnosed with the virus within 1 to 7 days of having been vaccinated, as compared to 3,186 people within 8 to 14 days of their respective jab date. Most significantly, between 15 and 22 days out from the first vaccine dose date, the figure dropped to 353 people.

That said, it is important to note that in terms of timing, given that Israel’s vaccination campaign began in late December, for most of those who have received the first dose, 15 to 22 days have not yet lasped.

Overall, since the vaccine campaign began, 375 of those who received the first job, were later diagnosed with the virus and hospitalized. Some 244 of them were diagnosed 1 to 7 days after vaccination, as compared to 124 between 8 and 14 days following the jab. But only 7 people were diagnosed and hospitalized after 15 or more days had lapsed following vaccination.

The Health Ministry has also published preliminary data on side effects experienced by people who received the first dose. As among 1.7 million people who received the first dose, 1,127 reported having experienced side effects. The most common side effects are general (such as, headache, fever, nausea, muscle aches, etc.), followed by local side effects (such as pain and redness at the injection site, swelling and restriction of movement), 92 cases of neurological effects (such as paresis, tingling, and numbness, 14 cases of facial nerve paralysis, 5 cases of convulsions and more), and allergic symptoms. (Ronny Linder)

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)

MONDAY

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)

>> Click here to read the full report

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)

>> Click here to read the full report

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)

>> Click here to read the full report

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)

>> For the full report click here

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)

SUNDAY

7:34 P.M. Palestinian Authority says first vaccines could come in March

The Palestinian Authority said on Sunday it expects to receive its first COVID-19 vaccine doses in March under a deal with drugmaker AstraZeneca, and accused Israel of shirking a duty to ensure vaccines are available in occupied territory.

While Israel has already become the world leader in vaccinations per capita, Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have yet to secure their first supplies. (Reuters)

>> Click here to read the full report

4:46 P.M. COVID vaccines: The most lethal example of Israel’s disregard for Palestinian lives | Opinion

As many around the world with the privilege of decision, autonomy and movement are debating whether or not to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, for others the issue is not when they will receive it but if and how the vaccine will be made available to them. 

Such is the case for the people of Gaza. 

Israel’s violations towards Palestinians are often justified as protecting Israel’s security and national interests. However, failing to provide vaccines for Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has nothing to do with security, and little to do with protecting the State of Israel. It is more akin to a complete disregard for the humanity and lives of Palestinians. (Shannon Maree Torrens)

>> Click here to read the full opinion piece

4:07 P.M. Another shipment of Pfizer vaccines arrives in Israel

Israel received another 680,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccines Sunday afternoon.

This shipment will allow the vaccination of teaching staff, people under the age of 60 with underlying conditions, prisoners and others who have not been part of the priority groups vaccinated so far.

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said that the health system seeks to vaccinate 200,000 people a day. (Ido Efrati)

3:13 P.M. Initial research shows people who recovered from COVID aren't immune to strain found in South Africa

The coronavirus strain found in South Africa might have some resistance to antibodies developed by people who have recovered form COVID-19, an initial research report published by Israel's coronavirus information center on Sunday says.

On Saturday, the Health Ministry said that it had identified four cases of the South African coronavirus variant in Israel. 

This means that the mutation found in South Africa might be more contagious than the known variant for people who have already recovered from the virus. It should be noted that the authors of the report say the research is in its preliminary stages, and has yet to undergo peer-review.

They also said that further research is needed to determine whether and to what extent the new strain is resistant to vaccines. (Ido Efrati)

12:10 P.M. Israel to share coronavirus vaccination data with Pfizer, but agreement remains secret

Another shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is due to land in Israel on Sunday, as announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week. According to the premier, as part of the agreement signed with the U.S. pharmaceutical company, Israel will share statistics about the country’s vaccination drive with Pfizer. But this agreement, and the data it involves, raises questions.  

After Netanyahu’s announcement, the Health Ministry released a statement clarifying that “The data is shared with the public on a daily basis and this is the same data to be conveyed to Pfizer.” Later, the head of health services in the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroi-Preiss, said there was no concern regarding a breach of the public’s privacy.

In an interview with Channel 12 News on Friday, Alroi-Press said that the ministry insisted that the data to be transmitted to Pfizer would be identical to publicly available statistics. However, the ministry did not say whether the data-sharing had been included in the original agreement with Pfizer, and why there was a need to convey this data if it is already in the public domain.

For Pfizer, statistics on vaccination in Israel, which has a very diverse population, could provide crucial data on the impact of the vaccine on groups and subgroups that could not have been studied during the company’s trials. Health maintenance organization sources say that neither Pfizer, nor any other outside entity, has access to their databases. (Ido Efrati)

11:24 A.M. On third day of lockdown, Israel sees over 5,000 new cases in 24 hours

Israel’s Health Ministry released the latest coronavirus numbers recorded over the last 24 hours. On Saturday, 5,030 new coronavirus cases were recorded. 81,858 test results were processed and returned.

There are currently 993 patients in serious condition, and 231 are on ventilators. So far, 3,645 Israelis have died from the coronavirus. (Haaretz) 

11:15 A.M. Tel Aviv Mayor requests to reopen cultural institutions to vaccinated Israelis 

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai issued a request to the Culture Minister to advance the “Green Passport” plan which would grant vaccinated Israelis permission to enter cultural institutions across the country. 

Israel’s cultural sector has been hard hit by the coronavirus, with a ban on large gatherings ending concerts, theater and museum visits. Huldai hopes the advancement of the plan will see free entrance into Israeli cultural institutions in the coming weeks. 

In his request to Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper, Huldai said restoring Israel’s cultural institutions ist he order of the day.

"It is a necessary move not just to save the workers of the industry from economic collapse, but also to answer the calls of thousands of Israelis to enjoy the country’s vibrant art and culture scene. This is an essential move given the importance of culture in any democratic society,” Huldai said. (Bar Peleg) 

8:45 A.M. Israel begins administering second vaccine dose

Israelis began receiving the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

According to the statement, 1,817,000 Israelis have received the first dose so far. (Haaretz)

SATURDAY

9:04 P.M. Israel to start vaccinating teaching staff

Israel’s health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are expected to begin vaccinating teaching staff from Wednesday, with a focus on teachers in the special education system who are working during the current lockdown. 

In a meeting over the weekend, the HMOs were told that 220,000 vaccine doses would be allocated for teaching staff. The vaccine doses will be distributed among the HMOs on Tuesday. (Ido Efrati)

6.20 P.M. Israel to begin second doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Israel is set to start administering the second dosage of the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation, three weeks after the beginning of its vaccination campaign.

Almost 2 million Israelis have received the first shot, at a rate of over 150,000 vaccinations per day. 

Meanwhile, Israel’s health maintenance organizations (HMOs) will continue to provide first round doses, but at a far slower pace and depending on current supply. 

According to sources in the HMOs, the leftover doses at some of the organizations are intended to “close gaps” in the coming weeks, and to focus on areas with a high percentage of over 60s and people with serious medical conditions who have yet to be vaccinated.

The HMOs are not due to open further registration for first doses, at least until stock is replenished. Health sector sources said further vaccines are due to arrive this week. (Ido Efrati)

2:22 P.M. Four cases of South African mutation found in Israel

The Health Ministry announced Saturday that it had identified four cases of the South African coronavirus variant in Israel. 

Four cases were found among 15 samples that came in to the ministry's central virus lab for rapid sequencing.

They represent two different chains of infection, the ministry said: one sample came from a person who returned from South Africa, and anothers from a family that had been infected by someone who returned from the country.

The ministry stressed that the South African mutation, like the U.K. mutation, is more contagious than other strains, but does not seem to cause more serious illness. (Ido Efrati) Read the full story here.

FRIDAY

8:53 P.M. Police minister says tightened lockdown restrictions will be strictly enforced

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said that the police will strictly enforce the restrictions of the tightened lockdown that went into effect on Thursday at midnight.

"There will be significant enforcement. It's better for those who don't have to leave the house to stay in," Ohana said, adding that the police will not allow selective enforcement to take place.

Incoming police commissioner Kobi Shabtai said that "some 220 roadblocks have been set up across the country. There are additional forces in rural areas." (Josh Breiner)

5:30 P.M. Public security minister doubles down on denying vaccines to prisoners

In response to the attorney general's instruction to allow for the vaccination of prisoners, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana responded with a sharply worded letter, reiterating his stance.

"You have, like any other interested party, until the February 4 to submit your names to one of the party slates campaigning for the 24th Knesset. In the case that you are elected to the Knesset and enter the government, you will surely be able to [make such decisions]," Ohana wrote. "Until then, the responsibility for all the bodies under the authority of the Defense and Public Security Ministries rests on my shoulders, and the law and duty to the public will be fulfilled by me and not by you. My decision will stand as it is."

According to the minister, he instructed that prison staff be given preference over prisoners for vaccinations because staff members must leave and return to the prisons – putting them at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. "After the vaccination of the staff is complete, I will only consider the vaccination of prisoners in relation to the progression of the vaccine campaign among the general population of Israelis who are not incarcerated," Ohana added. "I have coordinated my stance with my colleague who appointed Prof. Grotto – Health Minister Yuli Edelstein." (Josh Breiner)

4:29 P.M. AG orders Ohana to allow Palestinian prisoners to be vaccinated

The Attorney General’s Office informed Public Security Minister Amir Ohana on Friday that he must allow the vaccination of prisoners.

The letter sent to Ohana stated that the Prison Service must start vaccinating inmates without any further delay, saying he has no authority to “punish” prisoners by depriving them of their rights. 

Ohana instructed the Israel Prison Service in December not to inoculate Palestinian security prisoners, despite Health Ministry’s guidelines that prisoners should be part of the second group of Israelis to be vaccinated against coronavirus, together with security personnel. (Josh Breiner)

2:43 P.M. Police issue over 3,000 fines on first day of Israel's tightened lockdown  

Israel Police have issued numbers Friday of fines given out in response to violations of Israel’s new nationwide lockdown which aims to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Police say they issued 3,319 fines for different violations. 2,036 were given to recipients leaving their place of residence for reasons that aren’t outlined in the regulations, and travelling more than the allowed one kilometer radius. 

1,011 fines were given for failing to wear a mask, 55 were given for violating lockdown restrictions, and 111 were given to businesses for failing to close. 79 were given for being in a public place where activity was forbidden. (Haaretz) 

12:15 P.M. Israel to start vaccinating special ed teachers next week

The Health Ministry panel in charge of prioritizing vaccinations has decided that special education staff will start getting vaccinated next week, the ministry said in a statement.

Unlike the general education system, special education classes remain open during Israel's lockdown. (Haaretz)

10:52 A.M. Court cites lockdown in delaying Netanyahu's trial

The Jerusalem District Court announced Friday the next hearing in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, set for Wednesday, has been postponed indefinitely, citing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

As part of the stricter lockdown measures, which went into effect on Friday and will last for at least 14 days, courts are partially closed, but judges can independently decide whether to hold hearings in cases they view as urgent. (Netael Bandel)

>> Click here to read the full report

10:51 A.M. Iran's Khamenei bans imports of U.S., British vaccines

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday banned the government from importing new coronavirus vaccines from the United States and Britain.

"Imports of U.S. and British vaccines into the country are banned. I have told this to officials and I'm saying it publicly now," Khamenei said in live televised speech.

"If the Americans were able to produce a vaccine, they would not have such a coronavirus fiasco in their own country," he said. (Reuters)

9:55 A.M. Only Palestinians working in essential roles allowed to travel between West Bank and Israel during lockdown

Daily commute to and from the West Bank will only be allowed for Palestinians working in essential industries, the Israeli Defense Ministry unit responsible for the Palestinian Territories announced on Thursday. 

Those holding a permit to work in construction or agriculture will be allowed entry only if they remain in Israel at least until the end of the lockdown. 

The new rule does not affect Israeli citizens living in the West Bank, who are not under the same movement control regimen.

According to Palestinian Authority coronavirus lockdown regulations, laborers are formally barred from entering Israeli territory. (Yaniv Kubovich)

9:40 A.M. Police clash with worshippers while breaking up synagogue gathering flouting coronavirus rules in West Bank settlement

People gathered at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit, in violation of Israel’s lockdown measures, and threw stones at police forces who were called to disperse them, police said. One of them was detained for assaulting police.

This follows three unauthorized gatherings reported by the police on Thursday night. In the central city of Rishon Letzion, cops were called to a party with about 120 people, and handed out fines to 100 of them and to the organizer. Two weddings, one in the city of Taibeh with more than 100 guests and the other at a religious school in Betar Ilit, were also dispersed and organizers were handed fines.

Police also said a confirmed coronavirus carrier was caught violating his mandatory quarantine in the northern city of Haifa, and was summoned for interrogation. (Haaretz)

8:40 Israel confirms almost 9,000 new cases in a day

Israel has confirmed 8,839 new cases on Thursday, according to Health Ministry figures, putting the number of active cases in the country at 65,514.

This represents a 6.2-percent rate of positive tests. Both figures have been higher over the past week, but are exceptionally high compared to data from the past three months.

There are currently 1,481 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with 873 of them in serious condition and 220 on life support. 3,565 COVID-related deaths have been confirmed so far. (Haaretz)

8:28 A.M. More than 1.7 million Israelis already vaccinated

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said 1.7 million Israelis have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine so far, nearly 115,000 of whom on Thursday alone.

According to Health Ministry figures, the vast majority of vaccinations – 80 percent this week – are administered by private health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and about 10 percent in average by hospitals. (Ido Efrati)

7:54 A.M. Pfizer study suggests vaccine works against variant

New research suggests that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can protect against a mutation found in two highly contagious variants of the coronavirus that erupted in Britain and South Africa.

Those variants are causing global concern. They both share a common mutation called N501Y, a slight alteration on one spot of the spike protein that coats the virus. That change is believed to be the reason they can spread so easily.

Most of the vaccines being rolled out around the world train the body to recognize that spike protein and fight it. Pfizer teamed with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for laboratory tests to see if the mutation affected its vaccine's ability to do so.

They used blood samples from 20 people who received the vaccine, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, during a large study of the shots. Antibodies from those vaccine recipients successfully fended off the virus in lab dishes, according to the study posted late Thursday on an online site for researchers.

The study is preliminary and has not yet been reviewed by experts, a key step for medical research. (The Associated Press)

>> Click here to read the full report

1:54 A.M. Could Israel have avoided a third lockdown?

Almost a year since the coronavirus hit Israel, the country is in a third outbreak and entering its third tight lockdown. This time, the vaccination campaign at least offers hope for the future. But it’s hard to avoid wondering a third lockdown could have been avoided, and if so, how.

Was there a way to manage the pandemic better, at less cost to our health, economy and social life? Could different decisions have improved Israel’s situation? And to what extent has the public contributed to the problem?

In hindsight, there were many management failures. Yet it’s also impossible to ignore the role of human nature. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

12 A.M. Israel enters tightened lockdown as cases continue to soar

Israel entered it's third full lockdown on Thursday at midnight, which includes shutting most schools and workplaces. The new regulations will last 14 days. Earlier on Thursday, the head of public health services in the Health Ministry said the number of seriously ill patients is worse than what was projected and that Israel is "facing a catastrophe."

As of midnight, only workplaces considered essential will remain open. Schools will move to online teaching, apart from special education institutions and establishments for at-risk youth. 

In the next two weeks, no more than 10 people will be permitted to gather outdoors, and no more than five will be allowed in an indoor gathering. Public transporation occupancy would be reduced to 50 percent. Exercising individually is permitted without any restrictions. 

Anyone caught traveling more than a kilometer from home or failing to wear a mask will be fined 500 shekels. Anyone ignoring a police order to disperse a gathering will be fined 1,000 shekels. Anyone caught opening a business in violation of regulations or violating quarantine will be fined 5,000 shekels. 

Thousands of police officers will enforce the lockdown, and police will deploy roadblocks along state highways as well as within cities from 7:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. for the next 14 days. (Judy Maltz)

For previous updates, click here.

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