Coronavirus live: Street shops to reopen next week as Israel relaxes lockdown

Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are dealing with a renewed coronavirus outbreak, leading to proposals and measures intended to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Israel currently has 9,639 active cases; 2,597 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 4,862 active cases and 539 deaths, and in Gaza 2,798 active cases and 37 deaths.

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11:16 A.M. Greece to be removed from list of “green” countries

Due to the country’s rise in coronavirus infection, Greece will be removed from Israel’s list of countries that citizens can visit without needing to quarantine after their return. 

A Health Ministry statement said that the change will go into effect on November 10, pending the director general’s signature, and citizens who return from Greece after November 17 will need to quarantine. (Noa Shpigel)

11:00 A.M. Jerusalem hospital orders 1.5 million doses of Russian COVID vaccine despite concerns

Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center has ordered 1.5 million doses of a Russian vaccine against the coronavirus, hospital director Zeev Rotstein said Tuesday.

First reported on Army Radio, Rotstein added that the hospital will give the Health Ministry all necessary data about the vaccine this week, with the goal of obtaining a permit to administer it to Israelis.

Rotstein, who has clashed repeatedly with the ministry in recent months, is convinced that the fears voiced in the media about the vaccine aren’t well-founded, and that they have more to do with the global struggle between Russia and the United States than with the scientific data. But even if the ministry refuses to approve the vaccine, he said in an interview with Haaretz, “We’ll have something do with it,” because Hadassah also operates overseas. (Asaf Ronel

>> Read the full report here


7:40 P.M. Health Ministry registers 678 new cases

The number of total cases has risen to 317,206, indicating 678 new cases on Wednesday. Of these, 9,639 cases are still active. There are 364 patients in serious condition, and another 159 on ventilators. Five people died of the disease on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 2,597. (Haaretz)

7:30 P.M. Netanyahu warns that relaxing of regulations may be temporary

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that if a rise in infections is detected by next weekend, the government will halt the relaxing of the lockdown and may even impose stricter regulations. (Noa Landau)

7:00 P.M. Street shops to reopen next week

The coronavirus cabinet approved the reopening of street shops on Sunday, marking another step out of a nationwide lockdown that lasted nearly a month. The decision applies to all “green” areas where the rate of infection is low. Only four customers at a time will be allowed inside shops. 

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen opposed the move, citing concerns of a renewed outbreak.

Ministers’ decision comes amid a growing protest by shop owners who say they were disproportionately hit by the government’s policy. (Noa Shpigel)

12:21 P.M. Health Ministry opposes opening street shops

The Health Ministry is opposing the opening of street shops amid the recent increase in new COVID cases in recent days.

The coronavirus cabinet is expected to discuss the issue on Sunday. Health Ministry Yuli Edelstein acknowledged the hardship business owners are undergoing, but said the cabinet probably would not approve the opening of stores in the coming weeks.

“It’s true they are going through tough times, but is appears that we won’t be able to reopen the malls, restaurants and event venues in the coming weeks as we had planned.” (Noa Spiegel)

01:30 A.M. Cases rise by 622 on Tuesday

The country’s coronavirus death toll stands at 2,592, an increase of eight on Tuesday. The number of total cases has risen to 316,528, indicating 622 new infections on Tuesday. There are 383 people in serious condition, including 171 on ventilators. (Haaretz)


10:45 P.M. Finance Minister Yisrael Katz to go into quarantine after contact with coronavirus patient

Israel’s Finance Minister Yisrael Katz will go into isolation after coming into contact with a security guard who tested positive for COVID-19.

The Likud minister says that he feels “excellent” and will isolate for a week and a half. He will continue working from home. (Jonathan Lis)

7:10 P.M. Death toll rises to 2,592

The country’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 2,592, an increase of 12 since Monday. The number of total cases has risen to 316,411, indicating 775 new infections since Monday. There are 393 people in serious condition, including 171 on ventilators. (Haaretz)

6:19 P.M. Ministerial committee greenlights increased fines

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation endorsed a cabinet decision that would boost the fines for violating COVID-19 health regulations.

The proposal will not be voted on in three separate rounds by lawmakers. The ministerial committee’s approval means coalition members are expected to vote in favor of the legislation, which has been met with opposition from ultra-Orthodox parties.

The proposal doubles the fine to 10,000 shekels ($2,900) for opening a business or other public place in violation of the regulations.

It was also meant to increase the fine for illegally opening an educational institution or for holding an event, party, conference or cultural performance in violation of regulations from 5,000 to 20,000 shekels, but due to pressure mostly from ultra-Orthodox leaders, the amended proposal sets this fine at 10,000 shekels too. (Jonathan Lis)

3:45 P.M. Gantz says will demand lockdowns be expanded to all ‘red’ cities

Defense Minister Benny Gantz plans to demand that lockdowns be expanded to include all areas defined as “red” because of their high rate of illness he said Tuesday. “I intend to demand expansion of the lcokdowns to all red cities, so that we will able operate in centers of illness on the one hand, and to carefully reopen more locations possible on the other,” he said. (Yaniv Kubovich)  

9:30 A.M. Over 50 Palestinian prisoners infected in Israeli prison

Israel’s Prison Service said 56 Palestinian prisoners at Gilboa Prison In central israel tested positive for the coronavirus, in addition to five more who will be retested after receiving “borderline” results. 

The infected ward mostly houses Hamas prisoners and has been isolated. The prison administration has expressed concerns that COVID deaths would cause riots there. The rest of the prison complex is also closed off and only staff may enter or exit. 

According to the prison administration, the prisoners are all doing well and most of them are asymptomatic.

The prisoners, in turn, charged that they were infected by one of the wardens and that the prison service failed to stem the spread of the disease. They are refusing to leave their cells and threatened to take action if they do not get appropriate medical care.

Palestinian prisoners in other Israeli jails have threatened that any death from the disease would cause a flare-up, and not just inside the wards, leading the prison administration to ramp up its security measures.

Several prisoners associated with Fatah were quarantined in another prison in Israel’s north after coming into contact with some of the infected prisoners in Gilboa. (Josh Breiner)


5:00 P.M. Ultra-Orthodox parties object to increasing fines

The ultra-Orthodox party Shas and United Torah Judiasm convened on Monday to discuss the coronavirus cabinet’s decision to increase fines for regulation violators, and specifically for schools that reopen from 5,000 to 20,000 shekels. 

It should be noted that following the opposition, the Prime Minister announced that he would meet with faction representatives and at this stage the law raising fines would not go up for a vote in the plenum.

Criticizing the decision, Shas claim that although schools in ultra-Orthodox communities have opened in violation of the orders, these localities have remained “green” zones, meaning the infection rate did not increase. 

“Education is a supreme value. Even the other countries of the world did not close educational institutions when they imposed lockdowns because they understood that education is a supreme value, the soul of the child and the future of the generation.”

“Unfortunately, the Israeli government does not understand this and has even decided to impose fines on educational institutions,” added the party’s statement. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

4:10 P.M. Cabinet approves increased fines for regulation violators

The coronavirus cabinet approved the Health Ministry’s proposal on Monday that would boost the fines for violating COVID-19 health regulations.

The proposal doubles the fine to 10,000 shekels ($2,900) for opening a business or other public place in violation of the regulations. It would also increase the fine for illegally opening an educational institution or for holding an event, party, conference or cultural performance in violation of regulations from 5,000 to 20,000 shekels. 

Before the proposal becomes law, it will be considered by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and must then be approved in three separate rounds of voting by the Knesset.

On Sunday, Construction and Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman and Knesset member Moshe Gafni, both of United Torah Judaism, announced that their ultra-Orthodox faction opposes increasing the fines and would vote against them. (Noa Landau and Jonathan Lis)

3:20 P.M. Spike in ultra-Orthodox, Arab COVID-19 patients in Jerusalem hospitals 

Over the past week, there has been a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 patients from East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods and from ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods who have been admitted to Jerusalem hospitals. 

The number of East Jerusalem residents in the hospital has jumped by 78 percent, according to data obtained by Haaretzfrom 19 patients a week ago to 34 on Monday. The number of patients from ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods has gone from 13 a week ago to 21 on Monday – a 61 percent increase. During that same period, two East Jerusalem residents as well as one patient from an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood died of the coronavirus.

The number of confirmed carriers of the coronavirus has also increased over the seven-day period, from about 100 to 180, a return to levels from about a week and a half ago, and possibly reflecting the recent loosening of COVID-19 lockdown. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

2:04 P.M. Israel’s unemployment rate spikes amid second lockdown

Following its second lockdown and fall holiday, Israel’s unemployment rate in the first half of October has risen by 22.7 percent, amounting to some 940,000 jobseekers, compared with some 770,000 who registered for unemployment benefits in the second half of September.

Some 507,000 were put on unpaid leave in September, while 627,000 employees were furloughed during the first half of October, which explains the increase in the unemployment rate during that period.

On September 17, Israel entered its second national lockdown, shutting down its economy for the second time since the pandemic began in the spring. (Nati Tucker)

9:27 A.M. Israel’s downward COVID trend might have come to a halt, report says

The downward trend of coronavirus infection rates achieved following Israel’s second nationwide lockdown might have been slowed down almost to a complete stop, according to a report published by Israel’s national coronavirus command center.

The report relies on Health Ministry data of positive coronavirus tests and number of new cases over the past week, which maintained a stable trend instead of a downward trend.

However, the report notes that the number of new cases hospitalized in serious condition and the number of daily fatalities keep dropping. (Haaretz)

7:39 A.M. Nineteen test positive since Sunday night; active cases at 9,800

Israel has so far registered 315,131 COVID cases, out of which 9,800 are active. Nineteen more Israelis have tested positive for the virus since Sunday night and 170 are on ventilators.

So far, 2,554 people have died of the virus, and 302,777 have recovered. The ministry added that that 21,894 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday. (Haaretz)


11:40 P.M. Active cases continue to drop 

Israel’s active coronavirus cases dropped below 10,000 on Sunday and currently stand at 9,680, of which 394 are in serious condition and 168 are on ventilators, according to Health Ministry figures. Six more patients died on Sunday bringing the death toll to 2,554 nationwide.

7,974 tests were conducted on Saturday. (Haaretz)

10:30 P.M. Infection rate in Arab community spikes 18 percent in one week 

The rate of coronavirus infections in the Arab community continued to rise over the weekend. According to the emergency committee in the Arab community, 515 new patients were identified between Thursday night and Sunday morning.

In the past week, 1,473 new patients were diagnosed – an increase of 18% from the week prior. The number of active cases among the Arab community stands at some 2,500 – more than a quarter of the total active cases in Israel. These statistics do not include mixed cities or East Jerusalem.

Experts fear that reopening schools will only exacerbate the upward trend. Following the spike in cases, classes did not resume Sunday in Majdal Shams, Bu’eine Nujeidat or Kafr Qassem. (Jack Khoury)

9:40 P.M. Thousands took part in mass Friday prayer at Al Aqsa 

Thousands took part in a mass Friday prayer service at the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, in violation of COVID-19 restrictions, after a permitted protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent remarks on Islam. 

In the days leading up to the demonstration, organizers called on Muslims through social media to participate in the event. The Jerusalem police knew in advance about the organizations’ intention to hold a mass prayer and demonstration at the site.

The police said in a statement on Sunday “At the end of the prayer service that took place on the Temple Mount, which covers an area of 140 dunams, marches began. The district command instructed the police to enter the area and disperse those who took part in the procession, with proper operational procedure and while avoiding violence.” (Aaron Rabinowitz)

>> Read full report here

7:20 P.M. Active cases drop under 10,000

Israel’s active coronavirus cases dropped to 9,762, of which 392 are in serious condition and 171 are on ventilators, according to Health Ministry figures. Five more patients died, bringing the death toll to 2,553 nationwide. (Haaretz)

5:50 P.M. Israel to shorten quarantine to 12 days for trial period 

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced Sunday a trial period for shortening mandatory quarantine from 14 days to 12 days until December 31.

“After a series of consultations with health professionals I ordered the quarantine period to be shortened. Our goal is to allow maximum freedom while maintaining minimum damage to public health,” said the minister.  (Haaretz)

3:19 P.M. Infection rates have increased significantly among Israeli Arabs over the past week

Coronavirus infection rates in the Arab community have increased significantly over the past week, according to data released on Sunday by the community’s emergency committee. 

According to data published by the Arab community’s emergency committee, last week, 1,473 new cases were diagnosed in the community, reflecting an 18 percent increase from the previous week. At least 515 new cases were diagnosed in Arab communities over the weekend, not including those in cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations.

The number of active cases is approaching 2,500, and active cases among Arab patients constitute more than twenty-five percent of the total active cases in Israel.

Despite schools reopening to first through third grades, studies did not resume in Majdal Shams, Bu’eine and Kafr Qasem on Sunday due to the cities’ high infection rates, the Education Ministry said. (Jack Khoury)

12:00 P.M. Mall chain, small businesses move to reopen despite government regulations

The BIG shopping center chain announced it would reopen its strip malls tomorrow, in light of a government decision to keep stores closed but allow houses of worship to reopen.

“We are tired of feeling like suckers,” CEO Chai Galis told his tenants in a letter, “We’ve run out of patience to support everyone instead of the government. Therefore, from November 2, we will reopen stores in open-air in ‘green’ cities only, and we will charge rent and full management fees.”

Meanwhile, Abir Kara, the founder of ‘I am Shulman,’ a group that represents small business owners and the self-employed, called on small business owners to reopen their stores on Monday and said his organization would give legal support to any that receives a fine. (Adi Dovrat-Meseritz)

9:40 A.M. Clinical trials for Israeli vaccine begin

Israel began the first round of clinical trials for a potential Israeli coronavirus vaccine, produced by the Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona, on Sunday. The trials will last several months. 

Volunteer Segev Harel was the first to receive the vaccine, which was given to him at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. 

The first stage will be to conduct preliminary safety trials on 80 healthy volunteers between 18 and 55, in Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer and Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, 40 people in each hospital. The trial will start at first with just two volunteers – and will be increased to 80 people gradually according to their reactions.

Every volunteer will receive a shot, either of the vaccine or a placebo. After a few hours of monitoring, they will be released to their homes and three weeks of follow-up. During this period, they will be examined for any side effects and to see whether they have developed antibodies to the virus. (Ido Efrati,Yaniv Kubovich)

8:00 A.M. Schools, synagogues and salons reopen as lockdown eases

A new series of coronavirus regulations took effect at 6 A.M. Sunday as Israel continues to gradually relax its autumn lockdown. The cabinet approved the latest regulations in a vote Friday evening, after the coronavirus cabinet approved them the day before.

The new regulations include the limited reopening of first through fourth grades, houses of worship, complementary medicine, bed and breakfasts and other services. (Shira Kadari-Ovadia

>> Read the full report


10 P.M. Government approves new COVID regulations, to go into effect Sunday morning

Commencing on Sunday morning, November 1, 2020 at 6 A.M., a new series of coronavirus regulations will go into effect until January 14, 2021.

The regulations were approved by the Israeli government on Friday evening, after they were approved by the coronavirus cabinet on Thursday, on the basis of recommendations received from the Health Ministry:

— Training and competitions will be permitted for competitive athletes, children and youth, and with respect to swimming and motor sports, also for adults.

— Driving lessons will be permitted, in accordance with the directives for travel in a private car, that is, the driver and up to two passengers.

— Social services and other services described in Section 11(b) of the coronavirus regulations will be permitted, not only for essential care. This amendment permits the operation of “day centers and clubs for senior citizens” or services meant to alleviate loneliness among senior citizens, including those not within the framework of the local authority’s social work services, as well as libraries for the blind.

— Sports training and competition facilities for competitive and professional athletes shall be permitted to operate.

— In addition to national parks and nature reserves, outdoor heritage and antiquities sites shall also be allowed to operate.

— Bed-and-breakfast accommodations with up to four completely separate units shall be permitted to operate, but all the guests in any one unit must live together. Operation of a hospitality complex in violation of these conditions shall constitute an offense for which the fine is NIS 5,000. 

— Businesses offering one-on-one treatments (such as, barbershops, hair and beauty salons) and alternative medicine shall be permitted to operate in accordance with regulations and by appointment only. It is clarified that these treatments include therapeutic horseback riding, mental and emotional therapies, as well as hydrotherapy swimming pools.

— Drive-in movie venues shall be permitted to operate.

— Worship, and that is, only prayer, shall be permitted (up to 10 people indoors and up to 20 outdoors). Worship in a house of prayer with more than the maximum number of people shall constitute a criminal offense, and each person present will be subject to a fine of NIS 500.

— Events such as a wedding, party, ceremony or organized tour will be permitted, with up to 10 people if indoors, or up to 20 if outdoors.

— It is prohibited to attend or organize sporting events, conferences, conventions, festivals and art or entertainment shows.

— It is prohibited for an operator of a business located on public property or an owner of a private venue to hold a prohibited event, and service providers (such as, photography, videography, catering, music, lighting and infrastructure) are also barred from providing services to a prohibited event or an event in which the number of participants exceeds the maximum limit. Violators shall be subject to a to a fine of NIS 5,000. 

— The operator of a public or business venue in which services are provided by appointment (such as nonmedical services involving physical contact, alternative medical treatments, etc.) must retain the personal details of customers in the event that such information is needed for contact tracing. (Noa Landau)

>> Read full story

4:45 P.M. Coronavirus czar fears spike in infection among Druze after mass funeral

Israel’s outgoing coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu said on Saturday that he was concerned about a potential significant rise in infections in Druze communities following the mass funeral of a prominent sheikh, and said that anyone among the thousands who attended should be tested “in a few days.”

Gamzu also said that enforcement of coronavirus restrictions would be stepped up in Arab communities in the coming week, stating that the government plans to provide additional budgets to Arab localities to deal with the pandemic. 

Figures from the Health Ministry and monitoring groups show that some 30 percent of the new confirmed cases over the past week were in Arab communities.

This past week, the Health Ministry stopped releasing statistics about communities that have 15 or fewer cases, saying their publication would result in the infected individuals’ identities becoming publicly known, while the monitoring groups say this makes it more difficult to track the spread of the virus. (Ido Efrati)

10:00 A.M. Thousands attend funeral of Druze sheikh

Sheikh Abu Zain Aldin Hassan Halabi, one of the most distinguished religious leaders in the Druze community, was laid to rest Saturday in Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights after followers snatched his body from an Israeli hospital that refused to hand over his body because of COVID restrictions. 

Thousands from nearby communities in the Golan and Galilee attended his funeral in Majdal Shams. The funeral was coordinated with the police and Health Ministry.

>> Read full story

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