The Israeli economy has begun opening up on Sunday, after the government approved the new directives presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night with minor modifications. The overnight meeting ran from 1:30 a.m. until almost 7 a.m., although the new restrictions went into effect at 6 a.m.The "new coronavirus normal" allows for greater freedom of movement for the public and an increase in business.
"We will begin to free both people and the economy,” the prime minister said during a televised statement Saturday night. “In recent days, I have consulted on steps to open the economy with the health system staff, government ministers and the governor of the Bank of Israel, as well as experts on viruses from Israel and abroad.""The head of the National Security Council and his team consulted with their corresponding teams in other countries. Everyone is grappling with the same questions. This is a very difficult dilemma."
Companies can now bring 30% of their employees into the office – up from 15%. In addition, the hi-tech sector and some other key industries are being given even greater flexibility, so long as they adhere to the directives of the Health Ministry.
“In order to cut the bureaucracy, they will not have to get a permit from the authorities, but [will have to] declare that they are working according to guidelines, and we will monitor that,” Netanyahu explained, noting that companies will receive a “purple ribbon” for ensuring they check their employees’ temperatures upon arrival, maintain hygienic standards in the office, enforce the wearing of masks and that people maintain a distance of two meters from each other, among other requirements.
Finance Ministry Director-General Shai Babad reiterated that if workers can do their jobs from home it is still preferable.
Stand-alone stores will be allowed to open and sell their products and services in most cases, though beauty and hair salons, and toy, clothing and shoe stores will remain closed, as well as malls and open-air markets.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister announced that individual sports may resume – up to 500 meters from one's home. People can also exercise in groups of two, as long as they maintain a consistent training partner. Prayer quorums in open spaces may also resume in groups of 19 people, as long as participants maintain a distance of two meters apart. In addition, up to 10 people can now attend circumcision ceremonies and weddings as long as guests maintain a distance of two meters from one another. Men can go to the mikveh as long as at any given time there are no more than three people on premise.
Special education will also start to operate again in groups of up to three children, and three families can hire a caretaker for their children in order to go to work.The government will now allow zoos, safaris and national parks to operate, too, for the purpose of holding an activity in an open place intended for a person with a disability and in accordance with the guidelines of the Health Ministry.
In order to facilitate the increased public activity, public transportation will be boosted accordingly.
“The good results we have achieved allow us to take measures in the opposite direction,” Netanyahu said, “not to make them more stringent but to offer relief.”
The new regulations are in effect until April 30. During that time, the Health Ministry will continue to test people for coronavirus and closely monitor the trend line. Netanyahu highlighted that "if the rate of infection continues to slow, and there is stabilization of the number of severely the sick, there will be more relief; if not, we will reinstate harsher measures.”
Despite the shift, people will still be asked to wear masks in public, keep a distance of two meters from one another, wash their hands regularly and not travel more than 100 meters from home unless engaging in an approved activity. During the meeting, Ministers Gilad Erdan and Ze'ev Elkin pushed to have the distance-from-home restrictions removed, but the Health Ministry director-general and head of the National Security Council wanted to keep these restrictions in place and Netanyahu back them, according to N12. The government decided that anyone who is seen in public without a mask will first be given a warning and then will be fined NIS 200 for any subsequent offenses.
Ahead of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, the prime minister called on the Muslim public to celebrate the festival only with their nuclear families, as the Jewish public did during Passover. He added that the upcoming national holidays, including Remembrance and Independence days, will also need to be observed privately.
As of Sunday morning, 13,362 people have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in Israel, according to the Health Ministry, showing signs that the spread is beginning to level out. So far, 171 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 and 3,456 have recovered.
Of the country’s 156 serious patients, 109 are on ventilators, a number which marked a 7.4% drop from the previous day. Moreover, the number of patients in serious condition similarly dropped by 2.4% from the day before, which had already seen an 8.6% drop from Thursday.
Jerusalem continues to have the highest number of cases in Israel at 2,524, with 276 out of every 100,000 residents infected with the virus. The Health Ministry has also conducted the most tests in the capital: 24,769 so far.
The second highest number of cases (2,258) is in Bnei Brak, where 10,719 people have been tested and 1,156 out of every 100,000 are infected – more than four times as many per capita as Jerusalem.
In terms of per-capita infections disregarding recoveries and deaths, Bnei Brak is leading, while Jerusalem is 15th on the list.