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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 the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities.
24,276 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 319 people have died.
In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 2,025 people tested positive; eight people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died.
10:19 P.M. Opposition blocks digital tracking law, vote delayed until Monday
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has backtracked on its plan to promote a temporary bill allowing digital tracking of coronavirus patients, after opposition lawmakers blocked the initiative.
According to sources familiar with the details, the opposition’s initiative was led by Eli Avidar of Yisrael Beiteinu.
After the Knesset approved breaking up the bill to several clauses and voting on each clause separately, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Zvi Hauser backtracked and agreed with representatives from the opposition that a softer version of the bill will be voted on in its entirety on Monday. (Jonathan Lis)
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9:40 P.M. Justice Ministry cancels April fines levied on restaurants for violating COVID-19 restrictions
Fines levied on restaurants and coffee shops in the period from March 25 through April 25 for violating coronavirus restrictions will be canceled, the Justice Minister said on Monday.
“Due to legal doubt that arose whether the prohibition to open restaurants and coffee shops is a criminal prohibition,“ the fines are canceled, the Justice Ministry said. (Bar Peleg)
9:26 P.M. Israel extends aid for seniors through mid-August
The Knesset approved a bill Monday extending financial benefits for seniors above the age of 67 who were furloughed due to the coronavirus crisis. Seniors put on unpaid leave were alotted 4000 shekels a month, for March, April and May.
The bill extends the benefits through mid-August, after which the matter will be reexamined. (Jonathan Lis)
8:40 P.M. Universities to hold frontal exams this week, move to remote exams next week
Following pushback from universities, Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin said he had granted the request of universities and colleges to administer final exams on campus as planned this week. From Sunday onwards, all exams will be held remotely.
Elkin said that the directive ordering universities to have students take their final exams from home would only go into effect over the weekend. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
7:59 P.M. Netanyahu announces 2-billion-shekel package for small, medium-sized businesses hit by coronavirus
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he and Finance Minister Israel Katz were earmarking an additional 2 billion shekels (about $580 million) to small and medium-sized businesses to help offset the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.
"I understand your pain, I hear your cries," Netanyahu said. The 2 billion shekels is in addition to the 100 billion shekels already budgeted to aid those harmed by the economic shutdown during the crisis, most of which has yet to be distributed. (Noa Landau)
7:49 P.M. Over 400,000 back at work since lockdown’s end, but even more still getting jobless benefits
Some 401,000 Israelis have returned to their jobs since the end of the coronavirus lockdown, the National Insurance Institute reported on Monday. But more than 673,000 are still getting unemployment benefits.
Meanwhile, the Employment Service said that as of Monday 861,861 people were still registered with it, equal to 21.2% of the labor force. Of those, more than 70% were on unpaid leave and had not been laid off from their jobs.
The NII said that since the start of the coronavirus crisis, it had received 1.075 million applications for unemployment benefits. Of those 73,000, or 6.7%, were rejected because they didn’t meet eligibility requirements. Even as the lockdown in Israel began to ease after April 19, about 130,000 unemployment applications were filed. The figure doesn’t count people above the legal retirement age, who don’t qualify for jobless benefits ordinarily but due to the coronavirus have been receiving special grants.
The figures come a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said the government would extend unemployment benefits until mid-August. The decision was made after estimates that benefits for some 262,000 Israelis were due to expire at the end of June.
On the other hand, applications for income support, which had grown during March and April, declined in May and June, the NII said. In March, at the start of the coronavirus crisis, 9,418 applications for income support had been filed. The number grew to 11,290 in April, but in May it fell to 6,385 and in June, up until the 24th of the month, it had reached 5,497. (Sivan Klingbail and Avi Waksman)
7:28 P.M. Israel confirms 521 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total to 24,276
The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 24,276, the Health Ministry reported – an increase of 521 cases since Sunday evening. The death toll sits at 319. Israel currently has 6,768 active cases, with 24 patients on ventilators.
The ministry added that 10,364 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)
7:02 P.M. Chaos prevails in Israeli academia as criteria for online final exams remains unclear
Final exams for college students, which were supposed to start this week, have been thrown into chaos after the government’s coronavirus cabinet decided on Monday that most exams should be administered at home rather than on campus.
While the decision did allow some exams to be exempted from the at-home rule, it has not yet set criteria for which exams qualify. The Council for Higher Education and the Health Ministry are supposed to set these criteria at some point in the future.
Adding to the confusion is that the decision will take effect only after Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy signs the necessary regulations, and it’s not clear when he will do so. Until then, schools can hold finals on campus as planned, but they have no way of knowing how long that will be possible.
Ben-Gurion University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv University all said they will not administer online exams before Levi signs the directive. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
3:40 P.M. As cases rise, government decides to tighten restrictions
Israel's coronavirus cabinet has decided to limit public gatherings amid fears of a second wave:
Up to 250 people will be allowed at concert halls and event venues, and up to 50 people will be allowed to attend circumcision ceremonies and funerals.
Starting July 10, weddings held indoors will be allowed to host 50 percent of the venue's capacity, capped at 100 participants, with a maximum number of 250 attendees at outdoor venues. On July 31, the maximum number of attendees for indoor venues will be increased to 250.
University students will take exams online, while 30 percent of the workforce in the public sector will work from home. (Noa Landau)
2:00 P.M. Israel begins random antibody testing survey to determine scope of infection
After a delay of several weeks, and against the backdrop of expert criticism, random nationwide coronavirus antibody testing started on Monday in 191 communities in Israel, including 13 virus hot spots, as the government attempts to get a full picture of the outbreak.
Unlike swab tests, which are designed to diagnose patients currently infected, antibody testing should be able to show how far the virus has spread within the general population, whether or not those that have contracted it have developed symptoms.
The program will last several days, during which 75,000 tests will be carried out at health maintenance organization community clinics around the country. Designed by the Health Ministry, it is meant to be random in order to obtain a representative sample based on geographic location, size, socio-economic status and ethnic or religious background. (Ido Efrati)
11:57 A.M. Coronavirus cases in Israel continue to rise
Coronavirus cases have risen to 23,989, according to the Health Ministry, while the number of deaths rose by one to 319. The number of active cases is currently 6,556, with 46 of those in serious condition. (Haaretz)
11:22 A.M. University leaders appeal to Health Ministry to let exams go ahead
University leaders sent a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, asking him to allow university exams to proceed as usual.
Due to the increase in cases, a meeting is due to take place today to dicuss cancelling them unless they can take place at home.
The letter argued that, given workplaces and recreational facilities are open, it would be logical for the government to allow exams to go ahead. They added that cancelling the exams would be harmful to students. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
9:46 A.M. Almost 100 new virus cases discovered in the West Bank
Ninety-seven new cases of the coronavirus have been detected in the West Bank, including 53 in the Hebron area and 27 in Nablus, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. This brings the total number of active cases in the West Bank to 1,701 and total diagnoses since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak to 2,025. (Jack Khoury)
8:17 A.M. West Bank woman dies of coronavirus
A woman in her forties from Hebron died from the coronavirus, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Eight people have now died of the virus in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)
12:20 A.M. Daily new virus cases remain high
299 Israelis have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last day, according to data released by the Health Ministry, with 39 of those people in serious condition. The number of people who have died remains at 318. (Haaretz)
10:30 P.M. Israel allows quarantined students to leave home for matriculation exams
The Health Ministry gave its approval Sunday for students in quarantine to leave home to take the matriculation exams, subject to the consent of a district doctor.
Permission was granted in advance of the math exams on Monday and Tuesday for about 40,000 students, some 3,000 of them in quarantine. At the same time the ministerial coronavirus committee will discuss the request by Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to conduct remote exams in higher education institutions to reduce the danger of infection. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)
8:45 P.M. Polls show public dissatisfaction with Netanyahu's handeling of virus economic crisis
A Channel 12 News poll showed that only 35 percent of Israelis support Netanyahu’s handling of the economic fallout as a result of the coronavirus crisis, but 58 percent support his handling of the public health aspects of it.
According to a Channel 13 News poll, 81 percent of Israelis fear a renewed outbreak, 57 percent say they would abide by any restrictions imposed by the government and another 34 percent say they would abide by any new orders “as much as we can.” Only six percent of respondents said they wouldn’t abide by the government’s restrictions. (Haaretz)
8:30 P.M. Palestinians report 195 new cases, most of which in Hebron
The Palestinian Health Ministry reported 195 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 145 of which were found in Hebron, bringing the total number of cases in the West Bank 1,605. (Jack Khoury)
6:44 P.M. Israel confirms 218 new cases on Sunday
Israel's Health Ministry said 218 new coronavirus cases were confirmed since Sunday at midnight, bringing the total number of cases to 23,639. Of these, 6,265 are considered active.
Of all active cases, 39 patients are in serious condition and 22 on life support, while 318 have died so far in Israel, according to the official figures. (Haaretz)
6:44 P.M. Israel confirms 195 new cases
Israel's Health Ministry said 195 new coronavirus cases were confirmed since Sunday at midnight, bringing the total number of cases to 23,616. Of these, 6,251 are considered active.
Of these, 39 patients are in serious condition and 22 on life support, while 318 COVID-19 patients have died so far in Israel, according to the official figures. (Haaretz)
6:42 P.M. Health minister says Israel 'at the start of the second wave,' calls on cabinet to approve new restrictions
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in a press briefing that Israel is “at the start of the second wave.”
Discussing further restrictions, Edelstein said: “Our goal is maximum benefit and minimum [economic] damage.” He argued “the right way forward” is limiting religious services and having more employees, particularly in the civil service, working from home.
“But unfortunately, there’s a populist contest of who disregards more bluntly the need to take caution,” Edelstein added, taking a jab at other politicians. “Some charged me with causing panic. It’s easy to create such a populist discourse to score cheap points. Easy, but dangerous.”
He said his recommendations were presented in a ministerial meeting earlier on Sunday, but were not endorsed by the cabinet. Another meeting to discuss possible restrictions is expected on Monday. (Ido Efrati)
4:11 P.M. Unemployment benefits to be extended through mid-August
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz announced that unemployment benefits would be extended until mid-August.
In addition, people aged 67 and up who haven't returned to work will also be entitled to continue receiving special grants. At a later stage, the matter will be reexamined in light of future unemployment rates.
The decision was made after consultation with Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron. To allow a swift legislation process, this clause will be added as an amendment to the bill granting people aged 67 and up special benefits, which awaits a final vote. (Sivan Klingbail)
3:52 P.M. Palestinian health minister says there are hundreds of undiagnosed cases in West Bank
Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kailah said that hundreds of coronavirus patients and carriers in the Hebron area haven't been diagnosed yet, warning each of them is a potential COVID-19 spreader.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, some 1,174 cases have been confirmed in the Hebron area. The ministry added that the pandemic isn't under control yet in the West Bank.
As part of the ministry's effort to stem the spread of the disease, the option of transferring some of medical teams in the West Bank to hospitals in the Hebron area is being considered.
Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been declared in West Bank hospitals – outpatient clinics have been shuttered and elective surgeries have been postponed.
In addition, the Arab society's coronavirus emergency committee said that that 517 new cases have been diagnosed in Israel's Arab communities last week. The data doesn't include cities with mixed populations and East Jerusalem. Forty percent of the cases in Israel's Arab society were diagnosed in the Negev area in southern Israel. (Jack Khoury)
2:15 P.M. Netanyahu instructs officials to begin completing contact tracing within 48 hours of diagnosis
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the so-called coronavirus cabinet – a ministerial committee tasked with handling the crisis – to reduce the time it takes to perform contact tracing, with a maximum of 48 hours between locating an infected person and isolating all those who were in contact with them. Netanyahu also ordered that when a test is requested, it should be conducted and its results provided within 12 hours.
In the cabinet discussion, ministers also discussed the possibility of having workers in the public sector spend 30 percent of their job working from home. However, a decision on the matter hasn't been made yet. (Noa Landau)
12:25 P.M. West Bank cases rise by 59
There have been 59 new coronavirus cases diagnosed in the West Bank, according ot the Palestinian Health Ministry – 20 in East Jerusalem and 30 in the Hebron area. This brings the number of active cases in the West Bank to 1,479, of which 10 are in serious condition and one is on a ventilator. (Jack Khoury)
11:50 A.M. Netanyahu: Cabinet to discuss restricting gatherings, stepping up enforcement
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the pandemic during Sunday's cabinet meeting, saying: "I don't know if it's a second wave. I know it's a rising wave. Many countries that removed restrictions with the cessation of the disease are now forced to resume the restrictions to stop the spread. We have already seen in other places that it's not a question of health or the economy, because serious damage to health is also a serious blow to the economy.” Netanyahu added that it the policy was to reopen and then clamp down again if there is a resurgence in infections. He added that the cabinet would discuss steps to increase enforcement and restrict gatherings. (Noa Landau)
9:04 A.M. Israel has lost control of outbreak, experts warn Netanyahu
The panel advising the National Security Council on the coronavirus outbreak sent a letter to the prime minister and health minister on Saturday night warning that the country "has lost control of the pandemic" and should take immediate steps to blunt the virus' spread – or else face another lockdown within weeks.
The letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also urged them to take away the responsibility for creating a system for breaking the chains of infection from Siegal Sadetzki, the Health Ministry's director of public health.
The letter was sent amid a steady rise in cases, about a month after the outbreak was considered sufficiently contained for the government to decide to reopen restaurants and bars and a week after rail operations resumed. (Amos Harel)
10:55 P.M. Global cases pass 10 million
Global coronavirus cases exceeded 10 million on Sunday according to a Reuters tally, marking a major milestone in the spread of the respiratory disease.
The milestone comes as many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns while making extensive alterations to work and social life that could last for a year or more until a vaccine is available. Some countries are experiencing a resurgence in infections, leading authorities to partially reinstate lockdowns, in what experts say could be a recurring pattern in the coming months and into 2021. (Reuters)
9:53 P.M. Israel records 621 new cases in one day
According to figures released by the Health Ministry, there are currently 23,421 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel – an increase of 621 diagnoses since Friday night.
Three patients have died in 24 hours, and 41 are in severe condition. Of those, 23 are currently on ventilators.
On Friday, Israel carried out 16,551 COVID-19 tests.
9:45 P.M. Health Ministry expected to request new coronavirus restrictions as cases rise
Due to the rise of coronavirus cases, the Health Ministry is expected to request new restrictions. This includes reducing gatherings and large events, banning summer camps, as well as reducing contact in workplaces, by working in small groups and supporting remote work, among other options.
The matter of gatherings – in public spaces and in mass events – is particularly vexing for Health Ministry officials. Over the weekend, many Israelis visited beaches, sitting close together without masks, with no enforcement of coronavirus guidelines. The ministry is weighing actions to reduce this, and may limit beach attendence.
The Health Ministry presented demands Saturday night that will be discussed by the coronavirus cabinet on Sunday. Some of the suggestions – the summer camp ban and working in small groups among them – are already being implemented without a government decision. (Ido Efrati)
9:37 P.M. Palestinian man from Hebron latest coronavirus death
The Palestinian Health Minister announced that a 70-year-old Hebron resident has died of COVID-19. This is the seventh Palestinian fatality since the outbreak began. (Jack Khoury)
8:43 P.M. Active West Bank cases reach 1,412 after 258 new cases reported in one day
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, there have been 258 new coronavirus cases since Saturday morning. Of them, 179 are in the Hebron area. There are 1,412 current active cases in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)
5:39 P.M. PA to lock down all areas with confirmed patients
The Palestinian Authority has decided to lock down every neighborhood and town with confirmed patients, with an emphasis on the Hebron and Bethlehem areas, which have seen a sharp rise in the number of patients.
The Palestinian Health Ministry reported 67 new cases Saturday afternoon. Of them, 33 are in Bethlehem, 20 in Hebron, eight in Nablus, four in Al-Eizariya and two in Ramallah.
The number of active coronavirus cases in the West Bank now stands at 1,222; 11 are in severe condition and two are on ventilators.
At the end of Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh's meeting with the heads of the PA's security forces, they decided to ban gatherings, such as weddings, parties and mourner's tents, in addition to mobilizing emergency committees to supervise entry and exit from these areas and enforcing health guidelines.
Even before the announcement, local officials, mainly in Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus instructed precautionary measures such as banning gatherings, mainly weddings. (Jack Khoury)
4:54 P.M. 19-year-old Israeli dies of COVID-19
A 19-year-old, who suffered from a number of severe underlying health conditions, became the youngest Israeli fatality of the coronavirus.
The patient, who underwent a week and a half of intensive treatment at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and was put on a ventilator immediately after her admittance, was treated with "the full arsenal at the hospital's disposal," the hospital's spokesperson said.
The patient's conditions included pulmonary hypertension, cardiac insufficiency and obesity that limited her movement. The hospital said that she had a massive viral load.
Due to her viral load and prolonged care, a number of healthcare professionals who treated the patient have tested positive for the coronavirus. They were identified and quarantined. (Ido Efrati)
12:24 P.M. EU set to ban travelers from certain countries – including Israel – over coronavirus
The European Union will vote on Monday on a list which will bar travelers from several countries, including Israel, from entering member states in light of the severity of their coronavirus outbreaks, the French daily Le Monde reported on Saturday.
The decision was made in the night between Friday and Saturday by the Committee of Permanent Representatives, which is made up of the head or deputy head of member states' mission to the EU, the report said.
Infection rates, testing capacity and preventative measures were mentioned as factors leading to the decision. Among some of the other countries present on the list, which is set to be concluded Saturday night, are the United States, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. (Haaretz)
10:37 A.M. Bethlehem to go into 48-hour lockdown over spike in cases
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 67 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the West Bank on Saturday. Of those, 33 are in the region of Bethlehem, 20 in Hebron, eight in Nablus, four in Al Eizariya and two in Ramallah.
In light of this, Salah al-Tamari, the governor of Bethlehem, said the city would go into a 48-hour lockdown starting on Monday morning. (Jack Khoury)
9:00 P.M. Over 200 new cases registered in the West Bank in one day
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 207 Palestinians tested positive in the West Bank on Friday, raising the tally there to 1,475. Out of these cases, 1,155 are active. Most of the cases were diagnosed in the Hebron area. (Jack Khoury)
6 P.M. Israel reports 400 new virus cases, 5 more die
400 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, and five people have died, according to data provided by the Health Ministry. The total number of active coronavirus cases rose to 5,614, 46 of which are in severe condition, while 28 of those are on ventilators. (Ido Efrati)
4:00 P.M. Over 100 new virus cases discovered in West Bank
132 more people were diagnosed with the coronavirus in the West Bank, 94 of which are from Hebron, according to figures released by the Palestinian Health Ministry on Friday. Of those who currently have the virus, nine are in severe condition and five of those people are on respirators. (Jack Khoury)
1:05 P.M. 160 workers from single workplace in isolation after two test positive for virus
160 workers from the Negev Nuclear Research Center in the city of Dimona were sent into isolation after two workers at the facility were diagnosed with the coronavirus, Haaretz has learned.
According to sources from the center, a decision was made to isolate a large number of workers as part of a system of precautionary practices used in the facility, according to which people from both the first and second virus exposure circles are sent into isolation. (Ido Efrati and Almog Ben Zikri)
12:49 P.M. Death toll rises to 313, as cases continue to rise
Four additional people have died from complications associated with COVID-19, bringing the total to 313.
The total number of cases rose by 238 overnight, and stands at 22,638, with 5,736 of them active. 43 are in serious condition, and 28 on ventilators, a slightly lower number than yesterday. (Haaretz)
8:36 P.M. Cabinet declares more restricted zones as cases spike
The government has announced that it is declaring several locations as restricted zones amid the spike in cases. In Ashdod, three neighborhoods will be put under restrictions, educational institutions will be closed, and gatherings of more than 10 people will be banned.
In Bat Yam, educational institutions will be closed for fifth grade and up,gatherings of more than 10 people will be banned, and enforcement will be stepped up.
Restrictions will be removed from the neighborhood of Ajami in Jaffa, where enforcement will be increased. The same will be the case in the southern city of Rahat. (Noa Landau)
6:50 P.M. Netanyahu announces closer links with UAE on fighting coronavirus
Speaking at the graduation ceremony for Israel's Air Force academy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said an upcoming announcement would outline the ways in which the United Arab Emirates and Israel would join forces to fight COVID-19.
The collaboration will focus on "research and development... in areas that will improve health care provision throughout the region."
Hailing it as the result "of prolonged and intensive contacts in recent months," Netanyahu praised this as an advancement for all in the Middle East.
"The stronger we are, the more powerful we are at deterring our enemies and bringing our friends closer," he said. (Noa Landau)
2:48 P.M. Palestinian workers entering Israel will be required to stay in the country for three weeks
Palestinians entering Israel to work will be required to stay until July 17, according to new regulations aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus.
Employers will be responsible for the rights of Palestinian workers and their accommodation. Those who return to the West Bank during this period will not be allowed to return to work in Israel.
The new arrangements exclude Palestinians working in the health sector and in Atarot, an Israeli industrial zone north of Jerusalem in the West Bank.
There are currently 947 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. (Hagar Shezaf)
1:23 P.M. Two West Bank refugee camps closed off after cases discovered
Palestinian security agencies and local activists blocked the entrances to the Aida and Azza refugee camps near Bethlehem after several residents tested positive for the coronavirus. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 32 cases were confirmed in the Bethlehem District of the West Bank, 16 of them in Azza Refugee Camp, two in Aida and the rest in other neighborhoods and villages in the area.
Authorities called on residents to avoid traveling between different areas of the district, warning of further restrictions should infection rate rise.
The Health Ministry reported a total of 932 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank, most of them in the Hebron District and some in Bethlehem and Nablus. (Jack Khoury)
9:30 P.M. Knesset approves bill on digital tracking in first of three votes
The Knesset has approved the bill authorizing the Shin Bet security service to track coronavirus cases and those in contact with them in the first of three votes. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz presented the bill to the Knesset on behalf of the government, saying that anyone denying the seriousness of the virus "is nothing but a charlatan … It would be foolish not to use this ability." (Jonathan Lis)