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 46,081 active cases; 1,165 people have died. 

In the West Bank, there are 10,433 active cases and 246 deaths, and in Gaza 1,688 active cases and 15 deaths.

Zoom with Haaretz: How Israel’s COVID failure led to a second national lockdown. The event will take place on Wednesday, September 23 at 7 P.M. Israel time, noon EDT.

8:00 A.M. Government approves lockdown to go into effect 2:00 P.M. Friday

The government approved Thursday the lockdown regulations that will go into effect on Friday at 2:00P.M. ahead of the the Jewish High Holidays. The lockdown is expected to last for three weeks, until October 11.

Under the lockdown regulations, Israelis are restricted to a 500-meter radius of their homes, with limited exceptions. Public spaces, such as parks and playgrounds will be open. Exercise, solitary or with another person living in the same household, is permitted at any distance from the home. 

Spending time in the home of another person, even if it is within 500-meters of your own home, is not permitted.

LISTEN: Why did Israel let 70 evangelicals flout its COVID-19 travel ban?

Schools will be closed from Thursday, with the exception of special education and at-risk-youth programs.

Work places in the public sector will work in a limited fashion, and private workplaces can continue as usual – though they cannot receive visitors or clients at their place of work, with the exception of essential services. Essential businesses, including supermarkets, pharmacies and delivery services will continue to function.

Public transportation will function in a limited fashion. gatherings will be limited to ten people in an enclosed space and 20 people in an open space.

A maximum of 3 people can be driven in a car, unless more live in the same house, with one additional passenger allowed for each extra row of seats.

Essential services like postal services and banks will be operating. 

Holiday prayer services will be held in small groups, wose side will be determined by the rate of infection in each town. (Ido Efrati and Jonathan Lis)

12:10 A.M. Updated Health Ministry figures bring active cases to 46,081

Updated figures released by the Health Ministry have brought the number of active cases to 46,081 and the number of total cases to 170,465, marking an increase of 6,063 new cases on Wednesday. The death toll rose to 1,165 an increase of 18 since Tuesday. (Haaretz)

9:35 P.M. Ministries, police meet to discuss limiting protests during lockdown

The Justice Ministry, the Health Ministry and the police are drafting an outline for limiting attendance at protests during the lockdown, particularly for the weekly demonstrations outside the prime minister’s residence, while maintaining social distancing between protesters.

It has not yet been determined how many protesters will be allowed to congregate, and whether Israelis will be able to demonstrate beyond a distance of 500 meters from their homes during lockdown.

Senior Justice Ministry officials have been holding discussions over the past few days on the issue with Health Ministry and Israel Police representatives, the latter of whom have expressed support for limiting the number of protesters. However, it is still unclear how the police will be able to prevent more protesters from participating in demonstrations beyond the quota that will be set.

“We also have a hard time explaining why a demonstration is allowed but another outdoor gathering is forbidden,” a senior police officer said. “The demonstrations should be regulated and freedom of expression should be allowed, but at the very least, while keeping a distance between the demonstrators.”

The Health Ministry proposed an outline similar to that of performances, which are held in capsules. However, police officials opposed the proposal, as enforcing those capsules during demonstrations would prove difficult. The Justice Ministry also points to the challenge of treating demonstrations similarly to prayer services, due to the differences in frequency and the number of participants across the country. (Netael Bandel and Jonathan Lis)

9:13 P.M. Netanyahu flouts Health Ministry guidelines, meets with unmasked supporters

According to Health Ministry guidelines, every member of the Israeli delegation to Washington was supposed to go directly to their homes after disembarking and remain in quarantine until they could undergo contact tracing and a coronavirus test.

Despite this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with supporters, some of whom were not wearing masks, immediately after disembarking the airplane. (Noa Landau)

8:30 P.M. President apologizes for leadership shortcomings ahead of lockdown

In his speech ahead of the nationwide lockdown on Friday, President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel’s leadership disappointed its citizens in its handling of the coronavirus crisis, and asked for their forgiveness.

“I understand the feelings of confusion and uncertainty, the anxiety that many people are feeling. I understand and, first and foremost, want to apologize for that,” Rivlin said, adding that he asks the public for forgiveness for his violation of the Passover lockdown, when he hosted family members.

“We did not do enough as leaders to deserve your attention. You trusted us, and we disappointed you,” he said. 

“You, the citizens of Israel, deserve a safety net that the country gives you. Decision-makers, government ministries, policy implementers must work for you and only for you. To save lives, to reduce infection, to rescue the economy,” he added. “I understand the feeling that none of these were done satisfactorily. And now, today, my fellow Israelis, we are forced to pay the price again.” 

He said, “And from here, I want to say to the government of Israel – its leaders, ministers and advisors: the trust of the people is beyond value. We must do everything to restore personal, medical and economic confidence to our fellow citizens,” he added.

“This is a second chance and we must take it because we will not, I fear, get a third one.” (Jonathan Lis)

7:34 P.M. Israel sees highest number of new daily cases, patients in serious condition

According to the Health Ministry, 16 people have died since Tuesday, raising the the country’s death toll from the coronavirus to 1,163.

The number of patients in serious condition also rose to the highest number since the pandemic began, reaching 551 on Wednesday, as did the number of daily cases, after a total of 4,950 new cases were diagnosed on Wednesday. There are currently 137 patients on ventilators.

On Tuesday, Israel conducted 57,251 tests, also the highest since COVID-19 reached the country. (Haaretz)

7:20 P.M. Jerusalem hospital says lack of funds is the problem, not overburdened facilities

Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem said that it is not experiencing insufficiency, and it is certainly not collapsing, despite a Health Ministry statement that recommended evacuating patients from it due to the burden of coronavirus patients.

“This long period is certainly making its mark among the staff, and raising tensions and exhaustion on particular days,” a statement from the medical center said. “If needed, when the time comes, perhaps we will use the Health Ministry’s offer to transfer patients to other hospitals, but that’s not a problem at the moment!”

The central issue, the hospital said, is a lack of funds earmarked for operating the wards and allocating staff positions for them, which it needs immediately.

“We did not receive the funds we were supposed to from the government, and we did not benefit from a share of the additional funds for the health system that the prime minister recently announced,” the statement said.

“We are eking out from month to month out of an inability to pay salaries and payments to suppliers. We can enlarge our coronavirus ward and treat every person in need, but we must be funded for that.” (Ido Efrati)       

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7:15 P.M. Government has not yet presented lockdown regulations for Knesset approval

The government has not yet given its lockdown guidelines to the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for their approval. The committee will meet Thursday at 9:30 A.M. to discuss the lockdown, which goes into effect Friday afternoon, a statement from the Knesset spokesperson said.

In accordance with the law, the regulations will be presented by the ministerial cabinet to the Knesset committee, which has 24 hours to approve all or some of them, none at all, or to change the timeframe for which they are valid.

If the committee does not make a decision on the regulations within those 24 hours, the rules will be published and automatically go into effect. The committee will then have seven days to discuss and approve the regulations regarding private and public spaces, and 14 days for those pertaining to businesses. (Jonathan Lis)

6:15 P.M. Israeli delegates returning form Washington will travel in capsules

Ahead of the return of the Israeli delegation to the Israel-Bahrain-UAE agreements signing in Washington, a strict “capsule” plan is being used to safeguard the health of its members while traveling, the Health Ministry said.

The plan is the same as those used by traveling athletes and businesspeople, in order to minimize the risk of infection.

The returning delegates will enter a shortened five-day quarantine upon returning, and their contacts will be traced in the coming days. Those who do not abide by the capsule plan will have to complete the full 14-day quarantine. (Ido Efrati)

6:10 P.M. Hospital opening emergency underground coronavirus treatment complex

The Defense Ministry and Beilinson Hospital in central Israel released a joint statement saying that the medical center will be opening its emergency underground hospitalization complex tomorrow morning.

The complex can fit 206 hospital beds, which are in short supply as Israel’s hospitals bear the burden of an increased flow of COVID-19 patients. Forty patients are expected to be hospitalized there tomorrow, all from the north, where hospitals are reaching maximum capacity and beginning to send patients to hospitals in the center and south. 

The complex includes four intensive care units for coronavirus patients in serious condition and those on ventilators, built by the Defense Ministry’s engineering and construction department. (Bar Peleg)

3:41 P.M. 500 more soldiers to be sent to enforce lockdown

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered that 500 more IDF soldiers join policing efforts during the lockdown beginning Friday, in accordance with requests made by the Israel Police. 

With this order, the number of soldiers allocated to the operation stands at 1,000, in addition to the thusands of Home Front Command soldiers who will be sent to various cities, as part of the effort to break the chain of infection, handing out food and supplying information. (Yaniv Kubovich)

2:57 P.M. COVID-19 patients in hospitals in north, Jerusalem, to be transferred amid overcrowding

Due to overcrowding in hospitals in the country’s north and in Jerusalem, patients from the region will be transported via ambulances to hospitals in the south and center, the Health Ministry said. 

“In light of the increase in the number of confirmed patients and hot spots in these areas, there is a forecast for continued crowding in the north and in Jerusalem,” the Health Ministry document, addressed to the heads of hospitals, says. 

“At this point, the possibilities of adding additional beds in northern Israel have been exhausted,” it reads. 

The patient transfers have begun this morning, and will continue through Friday morning. Most of the patients transferred will be in moderate condition, patients who will need to be hospitalized for over 72 hours. (Haaretz)   

2:22 P.M. Netanyahu’s White House delegation pushed for quarantine exemption, and got a reduction

The delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the signing ceremony in Washington has received a major reduction in the amount of time they will have to quarantine upon their return on Wednesday – only five days instead of the 14 required for those returning to Israel from the United States.

The delegation was also required to take COVID-19 tests before their trip and upon their arrival in Israel.

The organizers of the delegation tried to receive a full exemption from any medical isolation upon their return, prompting a clash with Health Ministry officials, who insisted delegation members spend at least five days in isolation, ministry officials said.

“There was a bit of shouting, but everyone is going to sit at home until Monday,” said one of the officials. (Ido Efrati and Amos Harel)

1:15 P.M. Al-Aqsa Mosque to close for three weeks due to virus fears

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City will be shut for three weeks starting Friday due to coronavirus regulations, the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust responsible for it, announced.

A Waqf official said the decision was made due to the continuing increase in the number of cases in general and in the Jerusalem area in particular, including among worshipers.

According to data presented by the committee combating the virus in East Jerusalem, the number of active cases there is approaching 2,000, with 207 new cases recorded Tuesday while the number of deaths since the beginning of the crisis reached 43. (Jack Khoury)

1:00 P.M. Infection rate in Arab community higher among women than men

The coronavirus infection rate among Arab women in Israel during the second wave of the coronavirus crisis is much higher than that of men in the community, and has reached 60 percent – and in certain areas is as high as 85 percent, showed a new Health Ministry report. 

Based on an analysis of the timing of the increase in infection and the details of those infected, the authors of the report consider the source of the differences in the rate of infection based on gender in the Arab community as related to the “wedding season,” which began with the end of the month of Ramadan in May. The researchers estimate that this is because women spend more time at the weddings in closed spaces, and so are infected more at the weddings.

As a result, the report recommends a campaign directed at the women of the Arab community to encourage social distancing at weddings and other events, as well as increased enforcement and testing. The number of tests conducted for Arab men and women is similar, and the rate of tests with positive results is about 8 percent for women and 6 percent for men, while the rates are quite similar among both men and women for the rest of Israeli society. (Ido Efrati)

12:50 P.M. Weekend buses in Tel Aviv area to stop during lockdown

Weekend bus lines in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area will stop operating as of Friday, when a nationwide lockdown goes into effect, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality said. Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi stressed the suspension of the service, operated by local authorities, is only temporary and it would resume after the three-week lockdown ends.

Other public transport services are expected to continue operating during the lockdown but with some restrictions. (Bar Peleg)

10:40 A.M. Deputy Health Minister says not to expect significant decrease in cases after lockdown 

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish told Kan Bet public radio “you can’t expect a significant decrease in infection rates” following Israel’s three-week coronavirus lockdown, set to go into effect on Friday. “I’m starting to worry,” he said, adding that this lockdown “won’t be like the lockdown we know,” but instead would limit commerce, entertainment and leisure activities.

According to Kish, those who want to defy lockdown orders “will find an excuse” to do so, and the main goal of it is to prevent a renewed surge during the Jewish High Holy Days. (Haaretz)

10:30 A.M. Half of Israelis now live in ‘red’ areas with highest coronavirus infection rates

A week after restrictions were imposed on 40 neighborhoods and communities with high coronavirus infection rates, in accordance with the Health Ministry’s traffic-light-themed plan, Israel is on its way to being fully “red.” On Tuesday, 83 locales with a total of 4 million residents – nearly half the country’s population – merited this classification, together with the harshest restrictions that it brings.

An additional 51 communities, with 2.5 million inhabitants, were coded orange, just one step down from red in the five-color scheme.

Sources in the Health Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Haaretz there are virtually no “green” cities left in Israel, and that 97 percent of populated areas are coded yellow or higher. During a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet Monday, the head of the ministry’s public health services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, said: ”Infection rates are doubling in 97 percent of populated areas, that is to say within just two days, turning them from green to red. (Ido Efrati)

>> Read full report here

9:00 A.M. Israel to close all schools starting Thursday, day before lockdown 

The Israeli government announced Tuesday morning that they have approved the Health Ministry’s recommendation and will close all schools, excluding special education, starting Thursday, a day before the country is set to begin a three-week nationwide lockdown. (Ido Efrati)

8:00 A.M. Israel registers over 2,000 new cases 

The Health Ministry said that 2,572 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday morning, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 166,794, out of which 42,862 are active and 138 are on ventilators.

The nationwide death toll stands at 1,147, while 122,785 have recovered so far.

The ministry added that 57,165 COVID-19 tests were conducted on Tuesday. (Haaretz)   

2:00 A.M. The Israeli army fails to break coronavirus chains of infection

During the latest meetings of the coronavirus cabinet, on the eve of his trip to the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly asked about the system of epidemiological investigations, which is now being run by the Home Front Command. Netanyahu is not pleased with the timetable presented by the Israel Defense Forces, according to which the system will begin to operate fully only on November 1.

But it was the government that he headed that unnecessarily caused the months-long delay in transferring the task to the IDF. And although it looks as though the army will be ready on schedule this time, the increase in the number of identified carriers will make it difficult to conduct effective tests. The ability to break chains of infection will be very limited if the rate of illness continues to be about 5,000 or more cases a day. (Amos Harel)

>> Read full report here

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