Coronavirus Israel: Restaurants and Event Halls to Reopen Sunday as Planned

Shin Bet tracking must stop almost entirely by March 14, court rules ■ Figures show rising coronavirus infection rate in Israeli Arab community ■ Netanyahu defends vaccine transfers to other countries

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A shuttered restaurant in Tel Aviv, in January.
A shuttered restaurant in Tel Aviv, in January.Credit: Hadas Parush

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Israel is in the midst of an extensive vaccination campaign, and is beginning to see a drop in COVID infections and severe cases. Israel exited its third nationwide lockdown, but inbound and outbound flights remain suspended except for special cases. So far, 5,758 Israelis have died of the virus.

Meanwhile, 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. It may take a while still for a mass vaccination campaign to get under way, and many months for it to reach enough members of the population. 1,709 people have died so far in the West Bank, while 550 have died in Gaza.

>> How many have already been vaccinated

>> A scandal over flights to Israel is rocking the country, and could upend next month's election

>> Palestinians tighten lockdown as coronavirus strains ravage the West Bank

LIVE UPDATES

9:04 P.M. Cabinet approves reopening economy, more classrooms on Sunday

Israel's cabinet decided Monday to authorize the third phase of the economy's reopening at the start of next week, as well as reopening middle schools from Sunday.

The third phase will include the reopening of cafes and small restaurants, with no vaccination certificate requirement. In contrast, hotels, event halls, and other venues will only be open to those who can present their vaccination certificate.

Classrooms for students in seventh to 10th grade will also reopen on Sunday, despite Education Minister Yoav Gallant's push to open them earlier. (Ido Efrati and Judy Maltz)

8:00 P.M. Israel to vaccinate people who have recovered from COVID

The Health Ministry has given the green light to Israelis who recovered from coronavirus to receive one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, beginning Tuesday. 

The new guidelines will apply to anybody aged over 16 who recovered from the coronavirus three or more months ago. 

Similarly to those who have recovered from the virus, those who caught coronavirus following their first dose will not be required to get a second shot. 

In Israel, a total of 750,000 people have recovered from the virus.

At the beginning of Israel's vaccination drive, it was decided to exclude recovered COVID-19 patients from the immunization efforts in order to prioritize other groups. However, in accordance with World Health Organization recommendations and with the progress of the inoculation campaign, Israel has changed course. (Ido Efrati)

7:25 P.M. Vaccination center for non-status persons and asylum seekers will be allowed to stay open

The Health Ministry said Sunday that Ichilov Hospital and the Tel Aviv Municipality can continue vaccinating non-status persons and asylum seekers. They have approved 400 people to be vaccinated each day, in addition to administering second doses to those who have already received the first at the designated vaccine center in Neve Sha’anan. 

Last week the ministry announced that the Neve Sha'anan vaccination site would close, but reversed their decision. According to data from the Ichilov and the Tel Aviv Municipality, 13,220 people have been vaccinated at the site since it opened two weeks ago. 

"It's important and it's a humanitarian issue. These are people who could lose their livelihood, and who we all encounter. It's in our own interest," said Esti Saiag, deputy director of medical systems operations and director of the vaccination operation at Ichilov Hospital.

5:02 P.M. Israel to welcome Austrian chancellor and Danish PM  on Thursday

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will arrive in Israel on Thursday in order to learn from Israel's successful vaccination drive, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The leaders will discuss the prospects of launching a global venture to produce further vaccines, he said in a cabinet meeting on Monday. 

Netanyahu added that talks are ongoing with Pfizer over the establishment of a research and development center in Israel. "This is a very important mission to make Israel an independent vaccine power that can produce vaccines for itself and for others," the prime minister said. (Judy Maltz)

4.50 P.M. Netanyahu 'working on bringing another 36 million vaccines'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he is pushing to secure a further 36 million inoculations to "guarantee the health of our citizens."

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, the prime minister said the country needed to "prepare for the worst-case scenario." 

With a population of over 9 million, and immunity from the two jabs expiring after six months, 36 million doses will only immunize the population for the coming year. (Judy Maltz)

4.14 P.M. Education Ministry: Two thirds of teaching staff vaccinated or recovered

Israel's education ministry released new statistics Monday revealing that 66 percent of staff in the education sector have been inoculated against or recovered from COVID-19.

In total, 55 percent of teaching staff have received two doses.

The ministry also broke down the data according to sector. Among secular teaching staff, the percentage stood at 74 percent, in contrast to ultra-Orthodox at 59 percent and non-Jewish staff at 53 percent. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia)

4:00 P.M. Netanyahu to back proposal delaying school return to Sunday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to support a delay in reopening classrooms for seventh to 10th grades, pushing the restart date forward to Sunday.

With Monday's cabinet meeting underway, the prime minister is faced with two options: Education Minister Yoav Gallant's proposal to restart in-person learning this week, and the Health Ministry's position to delay the reopening until Sunday, stemming from fears of increased coronavirus infections as a result of the Purim holidays.  

The plan, which has already been approved by the cabinet, would see seventh to 10th grades go back to school in areas classified as green according to Israel's 'traffic light' system, which classifies areas according to their rate of coronavirus infection.

Areas with a higher infection rate but vaccination rate over 70 percent will also be allowed to return to their studies. (Judy Maltz)

10:00 A.M. High Court says Shin Bet tracking must end

The High Court of Justice ruled Monday that the Shin Bet security service must halt its tracking of Israeli citizens for coronavirus contact tracing as of March 14.

The service's means can only be used after that date, the court said, in the event that a person diagnosed with the coronavirus refuses to cooperate with the epidemiological investigation. (Josh Breiner)

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9:00 A.M. Netanyahu defends sending vaccines abroad

In an interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu defended his decision to transfer vaccine doses to other countries, a move that has faced broad criticism both internationally and domestically.

Netanyahu said that Israeli taxpayers will not foot the bill for the "20,000 to 30,000 vaccines" to be sent to countries with which Israel has bolstered its relations in recent years – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Guatemala and Honduras. "We took 20,000 vaccines out of 12 million in order to help countries that help us," he said.

When the interviewer mentioned that Coronavirus Czar Nachman Ash was not updated on the decision to send the doses, Netanyahu said that "He wasn't updated, the cabinet was updated." He added, "You know that in Israel, if the agriculture minister wants to send seeds to other countries, they don't convene the cabinet."

When asked if there will be another lockdown, the prime minister said, "No, because I, as prime minister, did something," adding that he is currently negotiating with Pfizer and Moderna on purchasing additional vaccines. (Haaretz)

SUNDAY

10:58 P.M. Official: Israel to provide vaccines to Sinai peacekeepers

Israel will provide the U.S.-led Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Egypt's Sinai peninsula with COVID-19 vaccines for its personnel, an Israeli official said on Sunday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 2,400 doses would be provided but did not elaborate on the terms or the timing of the handover. (Reuters)

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9:42 P.M. Concerns over rise in infections after Purim

The Health Ministry is worried by the rise in the infection coefficient for COVID-19, as well as by the general increase in new infections, particularly given the numerous violations of the guidelines that took place over the Purim holiday. As a result, the ministry is reevaluating how and when to introduce the next stage of the lockdown exit that was meant to start at the beginning of next week.

During the coming days, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, ministry professionals and the experts of the Magen Israel program will be holding discussions on possible recommendations to issue about how to move forward.

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9:30 P.M. Attorney general to probe Transportation Ministry’s exceptions committee, sources say

Officials representing Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit have asked the Transportation Ministry’s exceptions committee that decides who can enter the country while its only international airport is largely closed for information about entry permits the government has approved and which requests it has rejected, according to sources.

The sources said the request was made in preparation for a probe into the committee’s behavior during the past weeks, amid accusations that it has been biased in favor of ultra-Orthodox travelers. Last week, the committee's legal adviser said that decisions were being made randomly and based on precedent, without clear criteria. (Jonathan Lis)

8:47 P.M. Israel denied entry of 15,000 citizens over the past month

Nearly 5,000 foreign nationals have entered Israel over the past month, after the imposition of strict limits on Israelis arriving abroad from entering the country, while over 15,000 Israelis have been denied entry.

According to figures obtained by Haaretz that are set to be presented to the cabinet on Monday, 4,800 foreign nationals entered Israel in the past month, while 15,949 Israelis were allowed to enter and at least 15,000 other Israelis had their request to enter rejected. (Chaim Levinson and Ido Efrati)

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8:25 P.M. Figures show rising infection rate in Arab community

The past week saw a rise of about 500 new coronavirus cases in the Israeli Arab community compared to the preceding week, according to figures released Sunday by the Arab emergency COVID-19 committee, which reported 4,423 new cases in Arab cities and towns, excluding mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

According to these numbers, there are currently 7,521 active cases in Arab localities, 147 of whom are in serious condition. More than 478,000 members of Arab communities have been vaccinated so far with the first dose, an addition of 90,000 compared to the preceding week, an increase of 53 percent. The number of Arab citizens who’ve received the second dose stands at 255,000.

Dr. Mohammed Khatib, an expert in public health, explains that most of the newly infected people were not vaccinated, and that the more contagious British variant is infecting unvaccinated young people at higher rates. (Jack Khoury)

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International students receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in HerzliyaCredit: Hadas Parush

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