COVID Updates: Gaza Infection Hits All-time High

Israel debates ending outdoor mask mandate ■ Number of serious COVID cases at four-month low ■ 52 percent fully vaccinated ■ High Court rules fines given to protesters during lockdown were illegal

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Palestinians burying the body of a man, who died after contracting the coronavirus, yesterday.
Palestinians burying the body of a man, who died after contracting the coronavirus, yesterday. Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM / REUTERS

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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, and lifted most restrictions on flights. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 6,261 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 shipments of over 160,000 vaccines via the COVAX scheme. A total of 2,336 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 642 have died in Gaza.

LIVE UPDATES

8:15 P.M. Israel eases coronavirus restrictions

Israel's coronavirus cabinet approved loosening restrictions on gatherings Wednesday.

Gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted in the open air. However, limits on indoor gatherings remain unchanged, and are capped at 20 people. At events that include both an indoor and outdoor spaces, the number of attendants is still capped at 100 people.

Israel also approved special regulations for Memorial Day services, which will allow bereaved families to attend events, even if they do not possess a vaccine pass.

Seated events that do not include food – like concerts and sporting events – can include up to 10,000 people in the open air and 4,000 people indoors. Events that are not seated and include food can include up to 750 people in the open air.

Sport events, including races, marathons, walkathons and the like, can include up to 1,000 participants.

Israel also approved amended regulations regarding protests, by which they will no longer be considered "gatherings" or be subject to limitations on gatherings. Officers will be able to hand out fines to people who do not maintain the proper distance from one another, but only in areas where the infection rate is high. (Haaretz)

4:45 P.M. Gaza to enter full lockdown as COVID cases rise

Hamas announced that the Gaza Strip will enter a full lockdown starting tonight at 9:00 P.M until next Friday. 

Only vital shops will remain open during the lockdown, such as pharmacies, bakeries and supermarkets.

Gaza's Interior Ministry said security forces will enforce the lockdown strictly, specifically preventing large gatherings from taking place.

The lockdown coincides with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan which starts next week. It's still unclear whether Hamas will allow prayers and gatherings which is customary during the holiday. (Haaretz)

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12:49 A.M. Israeli cabinet to review COVID restrictions on Wednesday

Israel's COVID cabinet is expected to further lift pandemic-related restrictions on Wednesday, as coronavirus morbidity rates continue to fall.

The cabinet are set to vote on whether to terminate the so-called capsule plan in high schools with more than 65 percent of students vaccinated.

It will also discuss the restriction on public gatherings. While the limit on indoor gatherings remains in effect, the cap of outdoor gatherings’ participants will increase from 50 to 100 people. Moreover, the 500-person limit on public commerce, culture and sport events for vaccinated people is expected to increase to 750. (Ido Efrati)

12:40 P.M. Antisemitic violence falls, but cases are spiraling online, report finds

Coronavirus lockdowns last year shifted some antisemitic hatred online, where conspiracy theories blaming Jews for the pandemic’s medical and economic devastation abounded, Israeli researchers reported Wednesday. That’s raised concerns about a rise in antisemitism in the post-pandemic world.

The findings, which came in an annual report by Tel Aviv University's researchers on antisemitism, show that the social isolation of the pandemic kept Jews away from those who wish to harm them.

The number of violent incidents toward Jews across some 40 countries dropped last year, from 456 to 371 — roughly the same levels the researchers reported from 2016 to 2018. (AP)

> To read the full report, click here

12:20 P.M. Plan allowing vaccinated tourists into Israel to be approved next week, minister says

A plan that will permit vaccinated tourists back into Israel will be finalized within a week, Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen announced on Wednesday.

In a post on Twitter, she said her goal was to reach an agreement on the details with the relevant Health Ministry officials over the coming week. In the first phase, she said, Israel would allow in organized groups, and at a later phases, individual tourists.

“It is high time, considering that we are a vaccinated country, that we help rehabilitate Israel’s economy and tourism industry, rather than those of other countries,” she tweeted. (Judy Maltz)

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11:54 A.M. Gaza sees highest number of new COVID patients, Health Ministry says 

The Gaza Strip has registered its highest daily number of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

In the past 24 hours, 1,916 new cases were recorded in the Palestinian territory, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

A total of 4,982 tests were said to have been carried out on Tuesday, of which more than a third were positive.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 642 people have died in the coastal strip after being infected, according to the ministry.

Authorities say more than 27,600 residents have received an initial vaccination so far, and more than 8,000 have been fully vaccinated with a second dose. (DPA)

11:21 A.M. COVID spread in Israel rises slightly

The COVID-19 infection rate known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has slightly risen to 0.79, Health Ministry data shows.

The figures show, however, a drop in the number of seriously ill patients to 309, of whom 157 are on ventilators.  

Wednesday's report also shows a slight decline in the percentage of positive COCID tests, which currently stand at 0.4 percent. (Haaretz)

7:26 P.M. Israel reopens its borders to some non-residents after a year of COVID restrictions. Here's who can enter

Israel will begin allowing select groups of non-residents into the country, starting Wednesday. Overseas visitors will be required to obtain approval in advance to fly to Israel from either the Interior Ministry or their local Israeli consulate.

All non-citizens or non-residents, even if they have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival (or 10 days if they agree to undergo two additional PCR tests after landing). (Judy Maltz)

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MONDAY

2:48 P.M. Israelis will likely able to forgo masks outdoors next week, pandemic czar says

Israel's COVID czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said on Monday that he believes that the decision to forgo wearing masks outdoors will be passed by next week, after it was recommended by the Health Ministry's pandemic taskforce.

However, Ash stressed that wearing masks indoors will remain mandatory for the time being. "We want to see how the first phase goes and then we'll see what's next," Ash told the Ynet news site. (Haaretz)

10:38 A.M. Number of serious cases drops to four-month low

The number of Israelis suffering from a severe case of COVID-19 has dropped to a four-month low, according to Health Ministry data published on Monday. (Haaretz)

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