Coronavirus Israel Live: Confirmed Cases Top 40,000 as Daily Rise Breaks Record

Lawmakers reject government proposal, allowing swimming pools and gyms to reopen ■ Netanyahu presents new proposal moments before vote ■ Newborn baby dies in West Bank as death toll climbs to 45

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A man wearing a protective masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Jerusalem ,July 7, 2020.
A man wearing a protective masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Jerusalem ,July 7, 2020. Credit: AFP
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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.

42,360 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 371 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 6,028 active cases; 46 people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 72 people were diagnosed and one person has died. 

LISTEN: Protests, pandemics and Netanyahu's day of reckoningCredit: Haaretz

■ Coronavirus tracker: Live stats of cases and deaths

LIVE UPDATES

12:06 A.M. Netanyahu should 'stop trying to escape responsibility,' hand coronavirus response to IDF, senior Kahol Lavan official says

The two coalition partners keep trading barbs, with a senior Kahol Lavan official saying Netanyahu should "stop trying to escape responsibility," and instead let the Defense Ministry and Israel's military take point on the coronavirus response. 

"It would be better to concentrate on transferring the money to the accounts of the self-employed," the official said, referring to a Netanyahu promise to give immediate financial assistance to independent workers affected by the crisis. (Jonathan Lis)

TUESDAY

11:30 P.M. Senior Likud official: 'Netanyahu angry at Gantz' for not supporting measures to curb infection rate 

A senior Likud official said Tuesday that "Netanyahu is angry at Benny Gantz and Kahol Lavan who, for political reasons, are failing to take the necessary steps to curb the disease and save lives, choosing instead to "torpedo any decision that does not match their populist considerations."

"The irresponsibility of Kahol Lavan inevitably leads to a complete lockdown and an unnecessary economic toll," the official said. "Gantz today opposes any move to curb the spread of the coronavirus that could prevent the need for a general lockdown later on. Gantz and Kahol Lavan must immediately stop playing political games... that endanger the lives of Israeli citizens." (Noa Landau)

11:03 P.M. Number of people hospitalized keeps rising

The latest update from Israel's Health Ministry shows that 529 people are currently undergoing treatment in hospital, the largest number since the start of the outbreak. The number of patients in severe condition also remained at a peak 183. There are currently 56 people on ventilators.

42,360 people in total have now been diagnosed with COVID-19, an increase of 1,728 in 24 hours, according to a Haaretz tally. 

Six people have died in the last day, bringing the total to 371. (Haaretz)

7:40 P.M. Yesh Atid MK: government lost legitimacy to order full lockdown, public should not obey

Yesh Atid MK Idan Roll wrote Tuesday on Twitter that the public should not obey the government, if it decides to impose a lockdown due to the increase in coronavirus cases. "This government has violated the most basic contract with the public. It obliges it to protect us in times of crisis. In addition, its decisions are not based on data and are tainted with political considerations. Therefore it has no legitimacy to order a full closure and the public should not obey."

Meretz lawmaker Yair Golan agreed with Roll's remarks and said he called him "To praise him on the courageous move of his call for rebellion. The whole opposition must revolt, only in this way will we save democracy!"

Coalition head Miki Zohar of Likud condemned Roll on his statement. "The cat has come out of the bag, the people of Yesh Atid and Yair Lapid will do everything, including calling for a revolt that will turn the State of Israel into anarchy only to harm the continuation of the right-wing office, the Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Anarchists." The chairman of the right-wing party Yamina, Naftali Bennett, called on the head of Roll's party, Yair Lapid, to shake off his remarks: "I have a very harsh criticism of the government's failings, and I do not hesitate to present it. But this is the elected government. We have no other police and no other IDF. Criticism - yes. Anarchy - no." (Haaretz)

4:00 P.M. West Bank registers additional coronavirus death

A 54-year-old man from 'Anata, near Jerusalem, has dies of the coronavirus, bringing the West Bank death toll for the virus to 46. (Jack Khoury)

11:29 A.M. Minister, lawmaker enter quarantine after contact with confirmed patient

Minister in the Defense Ministry Michael Biton and lawmaker Keti Shitrit of Likud have entered quarantine after coming into contact with the head of the Ramat Negev regional council, Eran Doron, who has tested positive for the coronavirus. Both are not showing any symptoms and report feeling well. (Haaretz)

11:03 A.M. Israel's coronavirus cases top 40,000; Monday's daily rise breaks record

The Health Ministry said that Israel's confirmed cases have risen to 41,235, an increase of 1,256 cases since the previous update on Monday evening. So far, 19,474 people of recovered and 368 have died. Currently, there are 21,393 active cases, out of which 55 are on ventilators.

According to Haaretz's count, 1,962 new cases were confirmed on Monday, marking a new record since the outbreak began.

The ministry added that 27,514 coronavirus tests were carried out on Monday. (Haaretz)

10:31 A.M. Coronavirus death toll in West Bank climbs to 45, including newborn baby

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that five more people have died from the coronavirus since Monday, including a two-week-old baby from Hebron, raising the toll in the West Bank to 45. The number of active patients in the West Bank stands at 6,028.

According to medical sources in Hebron, the baby was born with a heart defect and suffered from other complex underlying conditions.

Despite the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the West Bank, only 18 patients are currently on ventilators. (Jack Khoury)

MONDAY

10:40 P.M. One arrested at Jerusalem protest againt coronavirus closure 

Police arrested one person during a protest at the Romema neighborhood of Jerusalem against the closure implemented on the area to curb the coronavirus infection rate. (Aaron Rabinowitz) 

8:00 P.M. Netanyahu's party withdraws request to replace Knesset coronavirus panel head 

Coalition chairman and Likud MK Miki Zohar withdrew on Monday evening his own initiative to oust coronavirus committee chairman Yifat Shasha-Biton, because she rejected the government's request to approve the closure of swimming pools and gyms. Zohar said that Instead of her elimination, disciplinary action against Shasha-Biton, his party member, would be taken and no matter related to the virus would be brought to her committee for the time being.

Earlier on Monday, Zohar sent a letter to Eitan Ginzburg, chairman of the Knesset house committee, saying that he "wishes to inform [Ginzburg] that the Likud faction is interested in immediately replacing Coronavirus Committee Chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton." (Jonathan Lis) 

6:45 P.M. Head of Health Ministry says very worried about rising cases

Director General of the Health Ministry Prof. Chezy Levy expressed concern Monday over the rising number of coronavirus cases in Israel and called on the public to obey ministry orders. 

Levy added that the ministry is trying to prevent a general lockdown and to implement further restrictions that will limit crowds to avoid such scenario. Levy also addressed the ebate on closing public swimming pools and gyms, reiterating the need to do so, and said that such facilities are unsafe and contribute to the spread of the virus. "Going to the gym definitely poses danger of getting infected."

Earlier Monday, the Knesset's coronavirus committee rejected the government's request to ratify the closure of pools and gyms. Levy responded by saying: "The Knesset committee has decided what it has decided, and we will respect that."

Speaking at a press conference, Levy confirmed that as of Monday evening, 183 patients are in serious condition, and 365 have died. In addition he stressed that as the number of cases rise so does the number of daily tests, which averages at 27 to 28 thousand a day, 6 percent of which are found positive. (Haaretz)

6:00 P.M. Israel's number of seriously ill patients rises by 12 in couple hours

The number of seriously ill coronavirus patients in Israel rose by 12 to 172, while the number of cases has risen by 108 to 39,979 since the last Health Ministry update two hours prior on Monday. The total number of active cases stands at 20,333. 

Of all serious cases, 53 are on ventilators. The total number of deaths stands at 364. (Haaretz)

5:00 P.M. Government approves virus economic plan proposed by Netanyahu, finance minister

The government has approved Monday a draft law that addresses a number of issues in the economic plan that require a change in legislation. The plan, proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Fianance Minister Yisrael Katz, includes among other things expanding eligibility criteria for receiving unemployment benefits, an Adaptation grant for those aged 67 and over, and assisting the self-employed and private businesses.

In addition, the government approved a draft law to expand the budget framework for the years 2020-2021 by 24 billion shekels for the purpose of expanding and implementing the plan.

The draft law will be brought to the Knesset for immediate approval.

On Thursday, Netanyahu and Katz announced that self-employed individuals will receive an immediate 7,500 shekels ($2,150) stipend. They promised that money would be transferred to accounts by next week, following criticism that the two previous rounds of coronavirus aid were delayed and insufficient. (Noa Landau)

4:45 P.M. Tax Authority paid about 1.8 billion shekels in virus aid to business owners

The coronavirus committee revelaed that since the start of the crisis, 92,000 requests by business owners for economic assistance were submitted, of which 83,000 amounting to 1.8 billion shekels ($255 million) were approved, and advanced payments rose to 60%.

Additionally, the committee's chairman, said the Finance Ministry promised an economic aid package - but it is important that the definitions it sets apply to all industries. (Jonathan Lis)

3:40 P.M. Israel's active cases surpass 20,000

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen by 1,201 in a day to 39,871, according to new Health Ministry figures, raising the total number of active cases to 20,251. 

Of all active cases, 160 are in serious condition, and 51 of those are on ventilators. The total number of deaths stands at 364. (Haaretz)

2:50 P.M. Netanyahu's party asks to replace Knesset coronavirus panel head who opposed shuttering pools, gyms

Coalition chairman and Likud MK Miki Zohar sent a letter to Eitan Ginzburg, chairman of the Knesset house committee, saying that he "wishes to inform [Ginzburg] that the Likud faction is interested in immediately replacing Coronavirus Committee Chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton."

In order to replace Shasha-Biton, the Knesset committee's approval is needed, and members of Kahol Lavan are obligated by the coalition agreement to support the Likud's decisions regarding its representatives in the committees.

Zohar adds that he will be notified of the Likud representative to replace her during the next Knesset house committee meeting.

Shasha-Biton had butted heads with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over closing pools and gyms to stem the coronavirus outbreak. (Jonathan Lis)

2:27 P.M. Knesset rejects shuttering pools, gyms; approves event hall and bar closures

The Knesset’s coronavirus committee refrained from voting on the government’s request to approve shutting down swimming pools and gyms, thus making it possible to open them immediately.

The committe approved in a vote a government order from last week, shuttering all event halls and bars, and limiting crowds at restaurants to 20 people indoors and 30 people outdoors.

Likud lawmakers Yoav Kish and Miki Zohar called on coalition members to abstain from voting. (Jonathan Lis)

2:15 P.M. Government recommends for gyms to stay closed, outdoor pools reopen with new guidelines 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein have decided to issue new guidelines to swimming pools, but keep gyms closed as coronavirus cases continue to spike.

New directives will reduce poolside crowding and close indoor pools, but outdoor pools will be able to reopen, with increased presence from law enforcement.

A Knesset discussion on the matter was delayed, as Netanyahu was pressuring coronavirus committee chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton, of Netanyahu's Likud party, to hold the vote regardless.

Shasha-Biton told the committee: “We have two main tasks – ensuring public health and securing the economy. We know for a fact that there’s no [exceptional] infection in swimming pools, but in gyms it’s a bit more complex. We can solve that with clear, possibly harsher, instructions.” (Noa Landau

11:57 A.M. Four Months Into Coronavirus Outbreak in Israel, Health Ministry Formally Defines 'Seriously Ill'

For the first time, the Health Ministry issued criteria Sunday for designating the seriousness of individual coronavirus patients’ medical conditions. The decision came after doctors had called on the ministry to ensure that the definitions are uniform among all of the country’s hospitals. The four medical conditions – mild, moderate, serious and “on ventilator/critical,” are partially based on World Health Organization criteria.

Prior to this, there had been no uniform criteria in Israel, and medical institutions adopted various standards, doctors told Haaretz. Hospitals, and sometimes even individual doctors, made the determination based on their own general impressions and not necessarily in accordance with medical definitions. In the four months since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel, the Health Ministry had only addressed the issue incidentally, in a document regarding medications for COVID-19 patients. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

11:38 A.M. Government not ready to withdraw request to close gyms, pools

Sources within the coronavirus cabinet said that the government is not ready to withdraw its request to close pools and gyms. Yesterday, Knesset coronavirus committee chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud) attempted to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to backtrack on the process of setting new guidelines after a majority of Knesset committee members opposed approving them.

The Knesset opposes keeping gyms and pools closed, as the Health Ministry does not have data on the coronavirus infection rate at pools, and the data on infections at gyms – 35 people have contracted the virus at gyms since June – show that they are not a central hotspot. (Jonathan Lis)

10:31 A.M. Late-night public transport to resume

Public transport will start running again after 10 P.M., just a few days after it was decided to reduce its hours because of the surge of new coronavirus infections. Transportation Minister Miri Regev explained that they backtracked on the decision "after a status report with senior ministry officials and public transit companies." (Osnat Nir)

11.11 A.M. NSC advisor says Health Ministry is foiling creation of new coronavirus command center

The head of a team of experts advising the National Security Council on the coronavirus, Prof. Avi Waxman, said that the delay in setting up a command center to coordinate the fight against the coronavirus is the result of Health Ministry Director General Chezi Levy’s refusal to give the future director of the center the necessary authority. On Sunday, the nominee for the post, Maj. Gen. (res.) Roni Numa, announced that he had decided not to take the job after he and the ministry failed to reach an agreement on the scope of his authority.

On Saturday, Prof. Waxman wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that the Health Ministry has failed to recognize its own limitations “As a regulatory entity with limited operational capacity and its professional failure to build the capability to cut the chain of transmission” of the coronavirus. “In large measure, that is the reason for its failure to suppress the current outbreak” of the virus in Israel, added Waxman, who is from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Waxman said that immediate steps should be taken to establish the command center outside the Health Ministry and that the center should be given all of the authority necessary to stamp out the current wave of COVID-19 cases. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel, there have been disagreements over areas of authority, a situation that “cannot continue,” he wrote. “Every day of delay intensifies and worsens the situation.”

Waxman noted that an analysis in the coming week of the data on coronavirus infections will make it possible to gauge the impact of coronavirus restrictions that the government imposed on the public at the beginning of this week. The team of experts that he heads has determined that if there is no clear decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases by Wednesday of this week, “More drastic steps will have to be taken to further curb infection,” Waxman wrote. (Amos Harel)

8:30 A.M. Coronavirus cabinet to discuss shuttering gyms, pools today

The Knesset's coronavirus cabinet will vote Monday on closing gyms and public pools after yesterday's discussion on the matter ended without a consensus. Ahead of the meeting today, committee chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud) asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the new restrictions. 

During yesterday's cabinet session, senior Health Ministry epidemiologist Dr. Emilia Anis said that the ministry still does not have data on the scope of coronavirus infection at swimming pools. She told lawmakers that the suggestion to close them stems from "epidemiological circumstances" like poolside crowding. In June, she said, 170 people were infected at weddings, 35 in gyms, and 27 in restaurants and bars. (Jonathan Lis)

6:41 A.M. Central bank chief backs new economic aid plan

Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron told the cabinet Sunday that he supported the new coronavirus economic package, even though it would widen the budget deficit this year to a yawning 13% of gross domestic product.

“This is the time to take advantage of the safety cushions we have to alleviate the impact of the crisis, and allow the economy and the public to get through it with minimal harm,” Yaron said at a cabinet meeting where ministers approved the first part of a 90-billion shekel ($26.1 billion) program unveiled last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz. (Avi Waksman)

>> Click here to read the full report

As the number of people infected with the coronavirus in the country rises, creating a need for increased testing, the Health Ministry has reported a shortage of the laboratory supplies that are needed to carry out the tests.

To overcome this shortage, the ministry is now employing a no-bid process to expedite the purchase of test kits from three suppliers. The total cost of the combined purchase will come to 58 million shekels ($17 million). (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

SUNDAY

11:40 P.M. Hundreds of protesters in Jerusalem clash with police over lockdown of neighborhood

Hundreds of protesters broke the lockdown in Jerusalem's Romema neighborhood, which has been placed under lockdown, for the second night in a row on Sunday. Protesters, mostly ultra-Orthodox teenagers and young men, clashed with police for house at the entrance to the neighborhood, eventually removing barricades. Police arrested several protesters. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

9:00 P.M. Vote on shuttering pools, gyms postponed to tomorrow

The discussion to decide whether to close sports facilities such as gyms and pools came to end without a vote, with the Knesset coronavirus committee due to reconvene tomorrow to take a decision.

Committee members could not come to an agreement on whether to vote on the different sections of the agreement (which also includes clauses regarding attendance in restaurants, among others) together or separately.

According to sources that attended the discussions, committee chairperson and Likud lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton sought to have the vote held on all issues at once in order to garner majority support and pass the package, despite disagreements with the opposition. (Jonathan Lis

8:00 P.M. COVID-19 deaths in West Bank rise to 38

Two Palestinian women from Hebron died from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 38.

The number of active cases in the West Bank stands at 5,575, the great majority of them in Hebron, where on Sunday, 408 people recovered and 309 new cases were diagnosed. (Jack Khoury)

7:45 P.M. Israel records 1,206 new cases in 24 hours, eight people die

Since the first case in February, 38,670 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Israel. Of these, more than 19,000 are active cases. Eight people died on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 362. 

More than 20,000 tests were conducted on Saturday, and over 1,200 people were diagnosed on Sunday.

The number of patients in serious condition continues to rise and stands at 151. 

7:35  P.M. West Bank lockdown extended

The Palestinian Authority announced that the lockdown will be extended for four more days in most districts, including Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem, in addition to any other areas with confirmed patients. Movement between districts will be prohibited between 8 P.M. and 6 A.M..  

Furthermore, from Thursday until Sunday of next week, a curfew will be imposed and only grocery stores and supermarkets will be allowed to open.

According to a statement by PA Spokesperson Ibrahim Milhem, weddings, summer camps and public gatherings are all banned, and restaurants are only permitted to operate via deliveries.

He also called on Palestinian workers to not work in West Bank settlements and to not return home if they are working in Israel. In addition, Milhem repeated previous statements asking Israeli Arabs not to visit the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)

7:30 P.M. Three more 'coronavirus hotels' to open in Israel

Three "coronavirus hotels" will be opened in the next two days, said the Defense Ministry, which is responsible for the set up and operation of quarantine facilities.

One hotel will open in Tel Aviv for self-isolating individuals, one hotel north of Jerusalem will cater mainly to the ultra-Orthodox community, and one hotel in East Jerusalem will house confirmed patients. There are currently more than 3,500 people staying in such facilities around the country, according to a statement by the Ministry of Defense. (Yaniv Kubovich)

7:15 P.M. Israeli government discusses closing of gyms, pools

The country-wide rise in patients in serious condition and new cases indicate vast community spread, said senior Health Ministry epidemiologist Dr. Emilia Anis during a session of the government's coronavirus committee. Despite an increase in the number of tests – nearly 30,000 daily – the percentage of positives is also increasing, Anis said at a discussion concerning the ratification of orders to shut down gyms and swimming pools.

Anis said that one third of infections in Israel now take place in the public space, making it difficult to carry out contact tracing: "Unlike schools or synagogues, I don't know the people sitting next to me at a bar or restaurant, and I cannot know who infected me."

She said that in the last month, 170 people were infected at weddings, 35 in gyms, 21 in restaurants and only six in bars. She added that her office has no reliable data on swimming pools but that considering people's behavior in such spaces, she accepts the recommendation that they should be shut.

Lawmakers Miki Levy from Yesh Atid and Yifat Shasha-Biton from Likud both opposed the closing of gyms, arguing that the number of infections there is too low to warrant a complete shut-down. "It's possible that we will live under the shadow of the coronavirus for a whole year, and the public must get used to a new, cautious routine that allows the economy to continue functioning," said Shasha-Biton. (Jonathan Lis)

5:35 P.M. Netanyahu approves making lockdown criteria public, ultra-Orthodox minister slams discrimination in enforcement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the advance publication of criteria leading to a lockdown on his official website. This follows demands to that effect by Shas leader and Development Minister Arye Dery, who wanted to avoid that a specific community - including his own - feel targeted. 

Dery also denounced what he saw as discrimination against the ultra-Orthodox community. He made the case that police did not do anything during a demonstration that drew thousands in Tel Aviv, even though coronavirus regulations were not respected, but that a small protest in a Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhood saw police brutality. 

"An ultra-Orthodox man asked a policeman why he is not wearing a mask. In response, the policeman punched [him]," Dery said. "There is deliberate violence by police against ultra-Orthodox demonstrators. It must stop." (Noa Landau)

12:56 P.M. Government approves grants for the self-employed, employees and business owners

The government approved a move to give assistance grants to the self-employed, employees and businesses affected by the pandemic of up to 7,500 shekels ($2,000). At the beginning of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that "we can overcome the coronavirus, or at least bring Israel into an economic and health routine that allows us to live reasonably well in the coming year."

Netanyahu stressed that the grants are not dependent on the passage of legislation, and said that he will work to transfer them to people on Sunday. The prime minister added that tomorrow, the plan will be brought to the government for its consideration, and it will need to be approved by the Knesset.

"This plan will give employees, the self-employed and business owners certainty in the coming year, for the 12 months ahead, with direct money in [their] account," Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, the government also approved Interior Minister Arye Dery's proposal to publish the criteria for declaring a restricted zone. The criteria will be published on the Prime Minister's Office website. (Noa Landau)

12:47 P.M. Unemployment rate at 21 percent

The Israeli Employment Service reported Sunday that 2,843 people have been furloughed, and 1,250 people were reported to have returned to work. Since the economy reopened, 395,871 people returned to work, while 146,605 new job seekers were registered.

According to the service's data, the unemployment rate in Israel currently stands at 21 percent and the employment service has 847,968 jobseekers, of whom 576,164 are furloughed. (Sivan Kingbail)

12:38 P.M. Government has not yet released data on the extent of coronavirus infection in gyms and pools

The government has yet to release data on the extent of coronavirus infection in gyms and public swimming pools to the coronavirus cabinet, although the cabinet demanded the data as a condition of signing off the order to close those facilities last week.

However, officials in the cabinet told Haaretz that it is not clear whether the data will lead to the revocation of the order to close the facilities, and that this will be clarified at a discussion that will take place on Sunday afternoon. (Jonathan Lis)

12:07 P.M. Coronavirus has forced 362 schools to close since the beginning of July

The Education Ministry announced today that the number of students, teachers and staff who have contracted the coronavirus has risen to 1,893, and 26,434 are currently in isolation. Since the beginning of July, 362 educational institutions have closed due to the virus. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

11:38 A.M. Three more MKs enter quarantine

The Knesset Spokesperson announced on Sunday that after an epidemiological investigation of those who had been in contact with coronavirus carriers, it was decided that Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman, and Yesh Atid-Telem MKs Idan Roll and Orna Barbivai would enter quarantine. Meanwhile, Likud MK Nir Barkat and Kahol Lavan MK Tehila Friedman-Nachalon were released from quarantine. (Jonathan Lis)

11:32 A.M. Weddings coronavirus hotspots, Health Ministry says

Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Itamar Grotto said on Sunday that events, including big weddings, constitute central areas of coronavirus contagion. He added that in some cities, a virus outbreak began with a major incident of many people not complying with Health Ministry guidelines.

In regard to restaurants remaining open, Grotto said: "The great difficulty is that you can't eat with a mask. Unlike public transport or even synagogues, when people eat they take off [their] masks and there is a significant risk of infection. But at the moment we are in a state of illness that has worsened, and we said that if the situation worsens we will have to go backwards." (Jonathan Lis)

11:25 A.M. Coronavirus cabinet to discuss government restrictions on gyms and venues

The coronavirus cabinet will on Sunday evening discuss restrictions issued by the government last week on the closure of cinemas, theaters, pubs, gyms and swimming pools, with the exception of therapeutic pools and those belonging to competitive sports clubs. The government's limit of 20 diners in a closed area at restaurants, and 30 in an open area, will be central to the discussion, after it drew criticism from the cabinet last week. (Jonathan Lis)

11:05 A.M. 750 new virus cases diagnosed

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 38,213, according to new Health Ministry figures. This marks 750 new coronavirus cases diagnosed since Saturday night.

There are currently 18,940 patients with active cases, 141 of which are in serious condition, and 48 of those are on ventilators. Four people died of the virus, raising the total number of deaths to 358. (Haaretz)

SATURDAY

8:42 P.M. Thousands protest poor government aid amid economic crisis

More than two thousand Israelis are protesting in Tel Aviv the government's handling of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers from the industries of hospitality, tourism, transportation, arts and culture declined an invitation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to discuss the situation.

"The Israeli government and its leader are responsible for the failure in implementing aid programs," said the organizers, who called on the government to amend its financial aid packages.

On Thursday, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz announced that self-employed individuals will receive an immediate 7,500 shekels ($2,150) stipend. They promised that money would be transferred to accounts by next week, following criticism that the two previous rounds of coronavirus aid were delayed and insufficient. (Bar Peleg and Lee Yaron)

>> Click here to read the full report

8:35 P.M. Seven more patients on ventilators, death toll rises by one

According to the Health Ministry, 1,360 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 since Friday evening, raising the total number of cases to 37,464. Of those, 18,296 are active cases.

One person has died since midnight, 134 are in severe condition and 49 are on ventilators. The ministry said 25,265 tests were conducted on Friday, and 122 patients have officially recovered on Saturday. (Haaretz)

3:53 P.M. COVID-19 deaths in the West Bank rises to 34

The Palestinian Health Ministry said three more people from Hebron died from COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total West Bank death toll to 34. It said the number of patients in serious condition and the number of ventilated patients is also rising.

There are currently 5,819 active cases in the West Bank, the majority of them in the area of Hebron. (Jack Khoury)

2:10 P.M. Contact tracing reduced to ten days back from moment of diagnosis, Health Ministry says

The Health Ministry will now do contact tracing going back 10 days from the moment a person is diagnosed, not 14 days, as was performed so far.

This is expected to lower the number of Israelis ordered to enter quarantine. The ministry’s decision came into effect on Friday.

The required quarantine period still remains 14 days.

According to the new guidelines, contact tracing for those who came into contact with a diagnosed person who is showing symptoms should go four days back from the moment the person started showing symptoms. 

If it is not clear when a person began showing symptoms, contact tracing will go back 10 days from the moment the patient is diagnosed. If a person who tested positive is not showing any symptoms, contact tracing should go back seven days from the moment of diagnosis. (Ido Efrati)

12:37 P.M. Israel ranks third in highest daily infection rate among European countries, WHO says

Israel is the country with the third-highest daily coronavirus infection rate in comparison to European counties, according to a World Health Organization published on Friday.

WHO data shows that Russia is the country with the highest daily number of diagnosed cases, with 6,635 new cases confirmed on Friday morning. It is followed by Kazakhstan with 1,726 new cases and Israel with 1,360 new cases as of Friday morning. (Haaretz)

9:49 A.M. Two more die in West Bank, raising toll to 31

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that the number of coronavirus deaths in the West Bank has risen to 31. The two recent fatalities are a 69-year-old man from the village of Yatta and a 95-year-old man from the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury) 

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