Event Hall Owners Threaten to Reopen in August Even Without Israeli Gov't Approval

Israel appoints new public health director ■ Israel reduces number of ministers in coronavirus cabinet, leaving only men ■ Israel taps coronavirus czar ■ Active cases surpass 35,000

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Police officers in Jerusalem on Monday, July 2020.
Police officers in Jerusalem on Monday, July 2020.Credit: Ohad Zweigenberg
Haaretz

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Israel and the West Bank are dealing with a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus, leading to proposals and measures intended to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

64,649 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 480 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 8,459 active cases; 76 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died. 

Israel's Locked-down, Let-down Youth Rattles Netanyahu's Cage. LISTEN

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

7:00 P.M. World Bank $30 million grant scheme for Palestinians hit by COVID-19 economic fallout 

The World Bank approved on Monday a $30 million grant for short term cash aid and the creation of employment opportunities for vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank who have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

The West Bank Emergency Social Protection COVID-19 Response Project will focus on those who have lost their income as a result of the pandemic, as well as families who lived in poverty before the crisis began, and who are now in a worse situation. (Jack Khoury)

>> Click here to read the full report

6:30 P.M. Leader of Israeli coronavirus response to launch ‘traffic light plan’

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who was appointed head of Israel’s coronavirus response last week, is expected to present a new plan to combat the spread of the coronavirus on Tuesday. The document, which is comprised of 10 sections, reportedly includes a so-called ‘traffic light plan’ which would map the spread of the coronavirus in Israel by assigning different colors to localities based on COVID-19 infection rates. Based on the colors – red, yellow and green – and an assessment by a team of experts, the localities would be subject to different coronavirus restrictions. (Ido Efrati)

6:00 P.M. Israeli reserve soldiers walk off Health Ministry call centers over vague guidelines, spike in calls

A hundred Israeli army reservists who were recruited to staff a coronavirus call center walked off the job on Thursday after a change in Health Ministry guidelines resulted in a spike in calls to the center. Sources told Haaretz their protest lasted six hours and thousands of calls went unanswered before they went back to their jobs.

For the past several weeks, the Israeli army has provided soldiers to help staff Health Ministry call centers handling calls related to the coronavirus pandemic. The rise in the number of cases was accompanied by a spike in the number of Israelis seeking to appeal orders to go into isolation based on cellphone tracking data from the Shin Bet security service. The soldiers lamented the Health Ministry gave them vague guidelines on how to handle the queries. (Amos Harel)

>> Click here to read the full report

2:47 P.M. Health Ministry plans to open two private coronavirus testing centers to meet demand

The Health Minstry is planning to issue a tender within a week for the establishment of two large private coronavirus testing laboratories, one in the south and one in the north of the country, TheMarker has learned. In addition, the ministry intends to increase the total number of tests performed by the My Heritage laboratory, which is capable of performing about 10,000 tests per day.

The ministry aims to increase the number of tests that are conducted per day to 60,000 until the winter. The reason for the planned increase in that in winter, the demand for coronavirus tests is expected to increase significantly due to a doubling in the coronavirus infection rate. Further, winter illnesses present very similar symptoms to the virus, so many more people are expected to suspect that they have the coronavirus and be sent to get tested.(Ronny Linder)

2:16 P.M. Childrens' activities permittied for children from fifth grade

The Health Ministry said that it will permit  informal activities for children in the fifth grade and above to go ahead, after banning such activities over the last two weeks due to the increase in the rate of coronavirus infection. According to an order issued today by Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy, beginning Tuesday the activities of youth movements, volunteer groups, trips and classes will be allowed, provided that they adhere to the coronavirus guidelines and limit the number of participants. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

12:25 P.M. Israel appoints new Health Ministry public health director

The deputy director of Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, Dr. Sharon Elrai, has been appointed acting director of the Health Ministry’s public health services division, replacing Siegal Sadetzki, who announced her resignation early this month.

The appointment of Elrai, which was made by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and ministry director general Chezi Levy, was announced on Tuesday.

Between 2010 and 2013, Elrai was the chief epidemiologist for the U.S. state of New Hampshire, a post in which she was responsible for health policy on infectious diseases and the investigation of outbreaks of infection there, in addition to serving as the state’s liaison with the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

Edelstein said Elrei’s appointment would strengthen efforts to break the chain of infection as she joins two other top ministry officials that he appointed recently, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the ministry’s new chief official in charge of combatting COVID-19, and Levy, the ministry’s director general, who took office in June.

Sadetzki, who had come in for some public criticism for her approach to the pandemic, resigned following Edelstein’s appointment as health minister and the resignation of ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov.

“For several weeks, the compass guiding the handling of the pandemic has lost direction,” Sadetzki wrote in her letter of resignation. “Against this backdrop, I have reached the conclusion that, given the new conditions that have been created, in which my professional opinion is not accepted, I can no longer effectively assist in halting the spread of the virus.” (Haaretz)

11:31 A.M. Israel registers 664 new virus cases since Monday night, with 6 new deaths

664 new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed since Monday evening, according to data released by the Health Ministry. The number of active cases of the virus is 32,052, of which 321 people are in serious condition, with 97 of whom on ventilators. So far, 480 people have died from the virus. The total number of infections is 64,649. (Haaretz)

9:09 A.M. Event hall owners threaten to reopen on August 5, even without government approval

The union of owners of event halls and gardens sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday, stating that they intend to return to business as usual on August 5 - even if the government does not approve it. The letter was sent in light of the planned vote Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday on the plan for financial compensation for the economic damage caused by the coronavirus crisis.

In the letter, the union wrote: "We have a few hours before the government and the Knesset decide our fate and eliminate Israel's area of joy. We depend on you, Mr. Prime Minister, and need your immediate help." (Bar Peleg)

8:56 A.M. Almost 500 new coronavirus cases recorded

473 new cases of the coronavirus were recorded Tuesday, with 31, 875 active cases, according to information released by the Health Ministry. 315 of those people are in serious condition, and 95 of those are on ventilators. The number of deaths from the virus remains steady at 474. The total number of cases in Israel is 64,458. (Haaretz)

TUESDAY

11:25 P.M. Over 2,000 new cases diagnosed since Sunday night

The Health Ministry said that 2,029 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed since Sunday night, raising the toll of active cases to 36,378. Out of these, 739 are hospitalized, out of which 311 are in serious condition and 95 are on ventilators.

The ministry added that 21,409 coronavirus tests have been conducted on Monday.

Since the start of the pandemic, 63,985 Israelis have tested positive and 27,133 have recovered from the virus. (Haaretz)

10:50 P.M. High Court rules against sick pay for quarantined Israelis

The High Court of Justice told the Health Ministry Monday it could no longer automatically deem workers who have been ordered into quarantine as deserving sick pay, a decision that will free employers from a sizable cost.

Citing its understanding of the wording of the Sick Pay Law, the court said the ministry’s public health division was not authorized to issue illness certificates to salaried workers quarantined due to the coronavirus. (Sivan Klingbail)

>> Click here to read the full report

7:04 P.M. Israel registers four more deaths, active cases near 36,000

Another 1,625 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of active cases to a record number of 35,982. 

739 people are currently hospitalized, out of which 310 are in serious condition and 96 are on ventilators. 

Four more people have died from the virus, raising the death toll to 474. (Haaretz)

6:11 P.M. Israel may remove cap on synagogue crowds

Leaders of ultra-Orthodox parties said they have reached agreements with the Health Ministry on increasing the 10-person cap on synagogues, ahead of the Tisha B’Av fast on Thursday. 

Ministers Arye Dery of Shas and Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism said in a joint statement they agreed with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on “adjusting” the restrictions currently in place, so that larger synagogues could host more than 10 people at a time. The specific regulations have not been announced yet. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

11:30 A.M. Unemployment rate remains stable at 21.4 percent

There are currently 870,348 jobseekers in Israel, according to the employment service, including 577,506 on unpaid leave.

Since yesterday, 1,010 people reported returning to work, but 2,904 new job seekers were registered. The unemployment rate stands at 21.4%. (Sivan Klingbail)

11:15 A.M. Israel's active cases surpass 35,000

According to Health Ministry figures, since Sunday night 670 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the overall number of active cases to 35,076 of which 739 are hospitalized. 

The number of those in serious condition rose by 14 to 317 and the number of those on ventilators rose by 7 to 104 since Sunday night. 

The death toll stands at 473, rising by three. (Haaretz)

9:30 A.M. Supreme Court hearings postponed until judge takes coronavirus test  

Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman will take a coronavirus test Monday morning, after waking up with a fever, and as a result, all hearings in the Supreme Court were postponed to 16 P.M.

On Sunday, Vogelman sat in discussions in an expanded panel. (Netael Bandel)

12:33 A.M. Two guards at Ramon Prison infected with virus

Two guards at the Ramon Prison, who have been in isolation since July 22, tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday. The guards are asymptomatic and feeling well. Until testing are conducted, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, access to the facility will be reduced. (Haaretz)

SUNDAY

11:00 P.M. 1,086 more cases diagnosed on Saturday

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 1,086 on Saturday to reach a total of 34,282 active cases, while the death toll has risen to 468. The number of those in serious condition dropped from 210 to 203. There are 98 people on ventilators. The number of tests conducted on Saturday was 15,471, according to the Health Ministry. (Haaretz)

8:10 P.M. Total cases rise to 61,764, rise of 1,006 since Saturday

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 1,006 since Saturday to reach a total of 61,764, while the death toll has risen to 468 (up from 455 on Saturday). The number of active cases now stands at 34,282, including 303 in serious condition. There are 98 people on ventilators. The number of tests conducted on Saturday was 15,471, according to the Health Ministry. (Haaretz)

4:33 P.M. Cabinet approves economic aid package

The cabinet has approved an aid package proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, which will now go to the Knesset for legislation in the coming days. The plan would give each citizen a 750-shekel (about $220) grant, with an additional 500 shekels ($146) for each child in a family (up to three children). The money would be automatically transferred to all citizens via the national insurance body. Anyone whose salary is over 651,000 shekels (about $190,700) would not be eligible. (Noa Landau)

1:30 P.M. Number of ministers in coronavirus cabinet reduced, leaving only men

The government reduced the number of ministers in the special inter-ministerial body dealing with the coronavirus response, the so-called coronavirus cabinet, from 16 to 10. All the ministers remaining in the cabinet are now men.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen, who were members until now, will no longer be a part of it. Israel's government has previously been criticized for failing to include women in its coronavirus response planning. 

In addition to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the cabinet includes the ministers of health, finance, foreign affairs, public security, economy, justice, science and technology. Arye Dery, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, will also be a cabinet member.

After protesting the fact he was removed from cabinet, Education Minister Yoav Gallant was assured he would be consulted on decisions pertaining to the education system. (Noa Landau)

11:28 A.M. Unemployment rate tops 21 percent 

As of Sunday, Israel's employment bureau said that 689 people have returned to work, while 1,941 filed for unemployment benefits.

Since April 19, 2020, and the easing of the coronavirus lockdown, 409,609 people went back to work, while 179,947 new jobseekers were registered.

The unemployment rate currently sits at 21.4 percent, up from 21.2 percent on July 21. (Haaretz)

10:34 A.M. Seven more Israelis die as active cases continue to rise

Seven people died of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, Israel's Health Ministry said, bringing the total to 464 as the number of people hospitalized keeps soaring.

The number of active cases rose to 33,965, with 764 hospitalized. Out of these, 329 people are in serious condition and 100 are on ventilators. 

SATURDAY

11:30 P.M. Government to approve reduction of ministers in coronavirus cabinet

The goverment will be asked on Sunday to confirm Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz's decision to reduce the number of members in the coronavirus cabinet from 16 to 10. According to the decision, ministers Yaakov Litzman, Yoav Galant, Miri Regev, Itzik Shmuli, Merav Cohen and Asaf Zamir will leave the committee. (Noa Landau)

8:30 P.M. Active coronavirus cases pass 33,000

Figures from the Health Ministry, which the ministry says are accurate as of Saturday afternoon, say 1,021 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed since Friday night. 60,496 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus in all, of them, 33,160 are active cases. 

There are currently 312 patients in serious condition and 94 patients on ventilators. Since the coronavirus outbreak began, 455 Israelis have died of COVID-19. The ministry said that updated numbers are to come later in the night.

7:22 P.M. West Bank death toll stands at 76

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported three more coronavirus deaths on Saturday night and ten in all since the week began. The West Bank COVID-19 death toll now stands at 76, with 8,459 active cases. According to their data, there are currently 15 patients in serious condition, and three on ventilators.

The ministry noted that the recovery rate in the West Bank is now 33 percent, as opposed to 28 percent three days ago.

The West Bank's coronavirus curfew and restrictions are still in place, and the Palestinian Authority has announced that the restrictions will continue into the coming week, including during the Eid al-Adha holiday which begins on Thursday night and lasts four days. (Jack Khoury)

FRIDAY

8:05 P.M. Cases rise by 1,493, death toll rises to 448

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 1,493 since Thursday to reach a total of 59,475 confirmed cases, while the death toll has risen by another two to 448. There are 308 people in serious condition, including 84 who are on ventilators. The number of active cases is 32,230. (Haaretz)

5:00 P.M. Weekend restrictions to go into effect

On Friday evening all weekend restrictions against the spread of the coronavirus will go into effect in Israel, and will remain in place until Sunday at 5:00 A.M.

As of 5:00 P.M. on Friday, all stores trading in non-essentials will be closed, including in malls and markets, and so will service providers, like beauty salons and barbershops. Most entertainment venues are to shut down, but not restaurants. 

Supermarkets, bakeries, pharmacies, optical stores and media and communications centers are to remain open. Following a decision by the coronavirus committee, also museums, tourist attractions and zoos will operate. (Haaretz)

>> Click here for the latest regulations, explained

11:14 A.M. Israel confirms six more deaths as cases inch closer to 60,000

The Health Ministry confirmed six more COVID-19 deaths, putting the total at 446 since the outbreak began. 

There are 58,559 cases in total, with 32,226 of them considered active. 302 of them are in serious condition and 81 on life support. (Haaretz)

THURSDAY

9:27 P.M. Netanyahu, new coronavirus czar say they hope to avoid imposing lockdown

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health minister Yuli Edelstein and the country's newly appointed coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu conducted a press conference on Thursday, with Netanyahu and Gamzu saying they would work to avoid another national lockdown. "We are attempting to avoid a general lockdown, but if there is such a need, we will do so to save lives," Netanyahu said. Gamzu meanwhile said: "We will do everything in order to not get to a lockdown." (Haaretz)

7:34 P.M. Death toll rises by 10, cases rise by 1,368

The number of coronavirus cases in the country has risen by 1,368 since Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases to 33,097. The death toll has risen by 10 to 440. There are 702 people hospitalized, including 302 in serious condition. There are 83 people on ventilators. (Haaretz)

6:30 P.M. Netanyahu postpones end date of summer programs for Israeli schoolchildren 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced government-sponsored summer programs for schoolchildren up to 4th grade will operate through August 6. The decision affects about 700,000 Israeli children enrolled in these programs.

Netanyahu said earlier this week programs will be shuttered at the end of this week, but reversed that decision following a meeting on Thursday with senior officials. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

4:50 P.M. Forecasting model predicts 250-300 new cases serious condition in next week

A new forecasting model predicts that the next week will see 250-300 new cases in serious condition be admitted to hospitals, for an average of 35-42 serious cases a day – a steady, but not exponential growth. The model, developed by the Weizmann Institute of Science's Prof. Eran Segal and Hagai Rossman, is based on a comparison of the number of new cases in the preceding week and their ages with the risk of each age group's chances of being in serious condition. The analysts believe there is no need for immediately implementing a full lockdown, based on the statistics. Applying the model retroactively to the entire outbreak showed that it is quite accurate in predicting the number of serious cases – a figure that is more important than any other in understanding the health system's ability to handle cases. Analysis also showed that there was no change over time in each age group's risk of being seriously ill, suggesting no change in the virus itself. The fact that the pandemic's second wave in the country has a lower rate of serious cases is the result of a change in the lower average age of cases. (Ronny Linder)

1:05 P.M. Museums, zoos and tourist attractions to reopen on weekends

The Knesset Coronavirus Committee approved reopening museums, zoos and tourist attractions to the public on weekends so long as they follow specific rules, including social distancing, wearing a mask and disinfection guidelines, counter to restrictions passed last week. 

Gyms are also slated to reopen, but only on Sunday at 6:00 A.M. in order to give the government time to determine new regulations for them. (Jonathan Lis)

11:30 A.M. Over 600 cases diagnosed overnight, over 2,000 since yesterday

New figures from the Health Ministry show that 2,032 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since yesterday, bringing the national number of cases to 56,748. Of those, 32,755 are active cases. There are 295 in serious condition, and 79 patients on ventilators.

Overnight, 663 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Three more people have died, bringing the country's death toll to 433. 

00:42 A.M. Netanyahu appoints coronavirus czar

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein appointed the director of Ichilov Hospital, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, to the position of coronavirus czar, early Thursday morning.

Prof. Gamzu, who has many years of managerial experience in the health system, previously served as director general of the Health Ministry, and at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis established a project to protect senior citizens from the virus. 

Gamzu has headed Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv since 2015. Previously he was director-general of the Health Ministry for five years.

“Late in the evening the prime minister and health minister reached out to me to join in the effort to cope with the coronavirus crisis at the national level, after Professor Barbash’s appointment had unfortunately fallen through,” Gamzu wrote on Thursday morning.

“I replied immediately in the affirmative. I did the same at the start of April when I was asked to handle the crisis in nursing homes,” he added.

Gamzu wrote that “this is a medical, economic and social crisis. I don’t ask any questions in such a situation, I simply show up, contribute all I can and help by country and the health system deal with the crisis.”

He said that “the challenges are enormous; rehabilitating public confidence in leading the handling of the pandemic, striking a wise balance between reducing infection rates and continuing normal life, improving public response and enforcement, improving the system of breaking the chain of infection and strengthening the medical system.” (Amos Harel)

>> Click here to read the full report

00:08 A.M. Knesset passes emergency powers law

The Knesset passed Wednesday night a law granting the cabinet the authority to declare a state of emergency amid the coronavirus crisis and impose restrictions to stem the renewed outbreak of the pandemic. (Jonathan Lis)

>>Read the full report here

WEDNESDAY

11:45 P.M. Coronavirus czar nominee withdraws candidacy 

Prof. Gabi Barbash announced Wednesday night that he would no longer be a candidate for the post of coronavirus Czar amid dispute over the scope of his powers. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein requested that Barbash be subordinate to him. Barbash issued an ultimatum and ultimately withdrew his candidacy. (Haaretz)

8:44 P.M. Appointment of potential coronavirus czar stalled as Netanyahu, health minister fail to agree   

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet appointed Prof. Gabi Barbash as point man on the battle against the coronavirus amid disagreements on the matter with the health minister. 

The appointment of Barbash, who, according to sources in the health care system, was Netanyahu’s pick, was supposed to be made public during a press conference on Tuesday evening. It has since been canceled.

The appointment was stalled due to disagreements regarding Barbash's future authorities. At the heart of the disagreements is the fact that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein wants the person appointed as coronavirus czar to work under him.

Barbash, on his part, said that if he is not appointed by Wednesday night, he would withdraw his candidacy for the role.

Netanyahu and Edelstein held talks on the matter on Wednesday. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit was also involved in the efforts to reach an agreement regarding Barbash's appointment. (Amos Harel)

7:32 P.M. Over 1,000 new cases diagnosed, 78 on ventilators

The Health Ministry said that 1,032 more people tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the toll to 55,695. Out of those, 665 are hospitalized and 78 are on ventilators. The death toll remains at 430.

The Health Ministry added that Israel currently has 273 patients in serious condition. (Haaretz)

11:15 A.M. Quarantine period reduced for COVID-19 patients

Israel’s Health Ministry issued new regulations, effectively reducing the time coronavirus patients have to remain in quarantine. According to the new order, patients will now be considered recovered after three consecutive days without symptoms and at least 10 days since they tested positive or began showing symptoms.

A patient with symptoms that lasted five days, for example, will have to stay in isolation for 13 days – 10 days since their symptoms began and three more without any symptoms.

If a patient shows no symptoms at all, they are only required to isolate for 10 days.

In some cases, namely elderly people and other at-risk patients, a patient will be considered recovered only once they test negative for the virus.

“According to the latest information about COVID-19, the chances of contracting the disease after nine days since symptoms began are low,” the Health Ministry said, stressing that the World Health Organization has also updated their recommendations on isolation of confirmed patients.

This replaces a previous order, which stipulated that patients can be considered recovered only after 30 days. The new regulation is intended to reduce the load on the health system. (Ido Efrati)

11:00 A.M. Coronavirus tally in Israel rises to 54,663

Since February, 54,663 people tested positive for coronavirus in Israel. More than 30,000 cases are still active. 430 people have died. (Haaretz)

TUESDAY

7:43 P.M. Nine people die, more than 1,500 new cases diagnosed in 24 hours

There were 1,556 new infections in Israel in the last day, bringing the total number of cases to 53,559, with 30,488 of them active. 

Nine people died. 673 people are currently in hospital, 256 of them in serious condition, including 77 on ventilators.

7:05 P.M. Chief Rabbi calls on government to rescind order restricting number of people in synagogues

Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to ask them to reconsider restricting attendance in synagogues. 

The regulations currently mandate that no more than ten people can be in a place of worship at any given time, and they must keep a distance of two meters from each other. 

Rabbi Lau argues that this doesn't take into account the size of each religious institution, and asked the executive to understand that the faithful will want to visit synagogues in greater numbers during the next two months, before the Jewish high holidays. 

"From what I see and know, vistors to the synagogues are very strict about following the procedures," Lau said in his letter. "And add to this the fact that only a very small percentage of people became infected in these places."

According to figures publicly available, which only represent a small minority of the number of active cases, around 14.5 percent of people contracted coronavirus in places of worship. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

6:26 P.M. Arab restaurateurs protest against government measures in Haifa

Dozens of restaurant owners and workers demonstrated in Israel's northern port city, blocking a major artery, during a protest organized by the far-left and predominantly Arab Hadash party. 

They denounced the economic paralysis created by what they perceive is governemnt mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. "They cannot keep closing restaurants without offering compensation," Fadi Najjar, owner of Douzan restaurant in the city's German Colony neighborhood, told Haaretz. "I will not let them destroy my life's work." (Jack Khoury)

5:15 P.M. Prof. Gabi Barbash to be announced as national coronavirus czar 

Prof. Gabi Barbash will be appointed as the country’s coronavirus czar on Tuesday evening, following talks between Barbash, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.

Barbash has demanded relatively broad authority, beyond responsibility for virus testing. He formerly worked as director-general of the Health Ministry and director-general of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. During the earlier stages of the pandemic, he was Channel 12 News’ health commentator. (Amos Harel)

11:25 A.M. 684 new cases diagnosed, death toll rises by seven

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 684, and seven more people have died of the virus since Monday night, according to Health Ministry figures. This brings the death toll to 422 and the number of active cases to 29,883, of which 670 are hospitalized. Two hundred and sixty of these are in serious condition, with 78 people on ventilators. (Haaretz)

11:10 A.M. Knesset votes to roll back gov't decision to shutter restaurants

The coronavirus Knesset committee voted to reverse the cabinet's decision to shutter restaurants amid the recent spike in new cases.

Seven lawmakers on the committee voted in favor of keeping the restaurants open and three voted against it.

Restaurants are now allowed to seat 20 people indoors and 30 outdoors, as was prior to the cabinet's new restrictions released on Thursday.

Coalition whip Miki Zohar said that the "opposition is failing to show responsibility and are willing to endanger public health to destabilize the coalition." He called on the committee to vote in favor of the cabinet's decision to allow only outdoor seating in restaurants.    

The committee will convene shortly to discuss other matters. (Haaretz)

9:45 A.M. Knesset begins debate on shuttering restaurants

Speaking at the Knesset coronavirus committee, panel head Yifat Shasha-Biton told lawmakers that "we have to issue guidelines that the public can understand. We'll probably allow restaurants to remain open. I hope the government proposes an outline that will allow outdoor as well as indoor seating in restaurants."

Shasha-Biton said that she supports striking down the cabinet's decision and allowing the restaurants to remain open. She added that the Health Ministry refused overnight to approve the outline suggesting allowing outdoor seating in restaurants while maintaining social distancing.       

Coalition whip Miki Zohar told the committee that the government has decided to keep restaurants open, and is currently debating whether to allow indoor seating and at which capacity.

Zohar lashed out at committee members, accusing them of disregarding public health.

The cabinet announced on Thursday night, restaurants were supposed to close for dining in from Friday night onwards; they earned a respite until Tuesday, 5 A.M. after staging a rebellion. (Haaretz)

5:00 A.M. Cabinet decision to shutter restaurants comes into effect, Knesset expected to reverse it

A cabinet decision to shutter eateries and restaurants, allowing only delivery and takeout, came into effect at 5 A.M. on Tuesday. However, coalition whip Miki Zohar said Monday that the government intends to allow outdoor seating at restaurants as long as they comply with coronavirus restrictions, including social distancing and ordering staff to wear masks.

The Knesset coronavirus committee is expected to convene at 9:45 A.M. on Tuesday and reverse the decision, thus allowing restaurants to stay open.

The Knesset coronavirus committee head, Yifat Shasha-Biton, seeks to allow restaurants to operate at 25-35 percent of their indoor capacity, and allow outdoor seating while maintaining social distancing. The committee is expected to approve these guidelines, even if the government opposes such a move.

It remains unclear whether restaurants will close until the Knesset committee announces its decision. (Jonathan Lis)

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