Months into its mass coronavirus vaccination campaign, Israel sees a drop in COVID infections and in the number of serious cases. Israel has reopened commerce and culture for vaccinated people, but some restrictions remain on inbound and outbound flights. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 6,180 Israelis have died of the virus.
Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have received 30,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by Israel, as well as a shipment of 60,000 vaccines via the COVAX scheme. A total of 2,160 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 591 have died in Gaza.
9:24 P.M. Gantz cancels Monday's government meeting
Defense Minister and Kahol Lavan party leader Benny Gantz cancelled the government meeting set to take place on Monday, claiming that it was because of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to appoint a permanent justice minister during the meeting. Gantz is currently the acting justice minister.
Therefore, the government won’t be discussing the acquisition of 30 million more vaccine doses on Monday.
Netanyahu's Likud party slammed Gantz's refusal to hold the meeting as "irresponsible," and accused him of endangering the safety and health of Israelis. It did not however deny that Netanyahu was blocking the appointment of a permanent justice minister. (Haaretz)
7:50 P.M. Israel to discuss acquisition of 30 million vaccine doses, Health Ministry says
The Israeli government will discuss on Monday the acquisition of more than 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.
The total cost is expected to reach 3.5 billion shekels ($1 billion) and the doses will bring the total number of doses bought for 2021 and 2022 to over 60 million.
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Up until now, Israel has used 10 million doses in its vaccination drive and requires only a little over 2 million doses to fully vaccinate its eligible population. (Ronny Linder)
11:11 A.M. Israel sees a slight rise in COVID Infection rate
The COVID-19 infection rate known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has risen slightly from 0.59 to 0.6, according to Health Ministry data released on Sunday.
In addition, Israel has recorded 229 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of active coronavirus cases to 9,996. The number of seriously ill patients keeps declining and currently stands at 458, compared to 632 two weeks ago. 1.9 percent of COVID tests came back positive today, up from 1.4 percent on Saturday.
More than 5 million Israelis have received their first dose of the vaccine, which accounts for 56 percent of the population. Over 4.7 million Israelis, just over 50 percent of the country's population, have received their second vaccine dose. (Haaretz)
6:45 P.M. Cabinet approves reopening of Sinai border crossing
The cabinet on Friday approved the reopening of the Taba crossing into Egypt beginning on Tuesday for those who have been inoculated against, or have recovered from the coronavirus – effectively allowing Israelis to visit Sinai by land for the first time in about a year.
Under the terms of the approval, which expires on April 12, up to 300 people will be able to exit Israel each day, and limits will also be placed on the number of people allowed to enter Israel at the crossing.
In addition to vaccinated individuals and those who have recovered from the virus, diplomats, non-citizens and non-permanent residents who have received an approval from the exemptions committee may also exit at the crossing. (Judy Maltz)
10:37 P.M. Cabinet to be asked to approve 7-billion-shekel budget for coronavirus fight on Monday
Government ministers will be asked to approve on Monday a 7-billion-shekel one-time budget for the purchase of vaccines and fund other measures to deal with the pandemic. Members of the cabinet have been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, which, according to government sources, is in order to prevent the leaking the conditions agreed upon with suppliers. (Judy Maltz)
3:24 P.M. Leading Hamas figure in West Bank, Omar Barghouti, dies of COVID-19
Omar Barghouti, a leading Hamas figure in the West Bank, died after contracting COVID-19, Palestinian media reported. The 67-year-old Barghouti served a total of 28 years in Israeli prison for involvement in attacks against Israelis and his part in the organization, which Israel .views as a terror organization. His son, Assam Barghouti, was sentenced to four life terms last year for deadly attacks in the West Bank in 2018. He previously spent 11 years in Israeli prison. Assam's brother Saleh, who authorities said was involved in one the 2018 attacks, was killed by special forces from the Border Police days after that attack. (Haaretz)
11:05 A.M. COVID spread in Israel keeps declining
The Health Ministry said that the COVID-19 infection rate known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has continued to decline and currently stands at 0.55.
According to figures released by the ministry, 470 new cases were diagnosed on Wednesday, with 1.1 percent of all tests conducted that day coming back positive.
In addition, the number of active cases in Israel now stands at 12,906, 482 of whom are in serious condition.
So far, 6,157 Israelis have died from the virus. (Haaretz)
8:22 A.M. Health minister says 50 percent of Israelis fully vaccinated
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that half of Israel's population has received both doses of the coronavirus vaccines.
"The only thing left is to keep following COVID restrictions," Edelstein said. (Haaretz)
12:12 A.M. Israel's COVID plan for Passover, Ramadan and Easter would let thousands celebrate together
Guidelines published Wednesday by the Health Ministry would let up to 5,000 people celebrate the coming religious and national holidays, as Israel relaxes more coronavirus regulations in keeping with its "green pass" scheme for vaccinated people.
According to the guidelines, Passover, Ramadan and Easter holiday meals must be limited to 20 people indoors 50 outdoors. (Haaretz)
9:47 P.M. Half of Israelis fully vaccinated against COVID
The Health Ministry said that fifty percent of Israelis have received both doses of the vaccines, and 55.94 percent have received only the first dose of the vaccine.
So far, 5,201,739 Israelis have received the first dose and 4,649,654 have been fully vaccinated.
On Wednesday, 9,480 Israelis have received the first the dose and 40,864 received both doses. (Haaretz)
2:48 P.M. Cyprus opens skies for vaccinated Israelis starting April 1
Cyprus has recognized Israel's 'green pass,' and will open the country to Israeli tourists on April 1.
Earlier on Wednesday, Greece lifted the cap on Israeli tourists, but reinstated COVID test requirement.
According to the announcement released by the Cypriot government, vaccinated Israelis can visit Cyprus without taking a coronavirus test or entering quarantine. Unvaccinated Israelis will need to present a negative coronavirus test, excluding children under 12 years of age.
"Ready the beaches, hotels and restaurants for Israelis that are waiting to visit Cyprus, your country's recognition of the green pass will allow the skies to open and will restore tourism very quickly," Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.
The decision was made following Ashkenazi's meeting with Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades last month, as well as ongoing efforts by Israeli Embassy in Cyprus. (Judy Maltz)
1:10 P.M. Greece lifts cap on Israeli tourists, but reinstates COVID test requirement
Greece has canceled its cap on Israeli tourists, which had been set at 10,000 a week, but has reinstated coronavirus tests for incoming tourists, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry.
This update followed Monday's announcement that Israel and Greece had struck a tourism agreement allowing 10,000 Israeli tourists to enter the country weekly without having to present a negative PCR coronavirus test.
Following the update, Israelis will now need to present a negative PCR coronavirus test within 72 hours of flying in accordance with EU requirements, the Foreign Ministry said. (Judy Maltz)
10:15 A.M. Israel confirmed over 940 new cases on Monday
The Health Ministry reported that there were 942 new COVID cases on Monday and 59,605 tests conducted. There are currently 14,679 active cases including 499 in serious condition, 204 of whom are on ventilators.
Meanwhile, 55.8 percent of the population has received at least the first dose, and 49.5 percent have received both doses. (Haaretz)