To allow for preparations and due to the purchase of food by restaurants for the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said Friday that restaurants could remain open until 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 21. At that time, they will revert to takeaway and delivery only.
The government is required to approve the decision.
The announcement, made via a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, came after several restaurants announced that they would not adhere to the new coronavirus directives and would open anyway, and amid strong protest by the Association of Restaurants and politicians.
“Once again, we are witnessing the capricious and irresponsible conduct of a government that has lost its way,” the association said in a statement, stressing that they had already stocked up on raw materials that would otherwise be thrown away or donated.
“The arbitrary decision to close the restaurants again is a death sentence for the industry,” accused MK Avigdor Liberman in a Facebook post. “Restaurants that opened after a long period of closure, that had to adapt themselves at record speed to the changing restrictions, are now forced to close again without prior notice.”
He called on the government to overturn the decision.
“Do you know the words ‘civil rebellion?’” Liberman teased. “If you do not start behaving logically, within a few days you will see one with your own eyes.
Ministers met until late Thursday night considering how and when to impose a lockdown or other closures due to an increasing surge in coronavirus cases throughout the country. On Friday at 5 p.m., most of the restrictions agreed upon at the meeting becomes enforceable:
> Gyms and studios used for sports or dance activities (except for use by competitive athletes) - closed
> Restaurants - takeaway and delivery (beginning at 5 a.m. on Tuesday)
> Workplace cafeterias - pickup only
Hotel restaurants will be able to continue operating at 35% capacity.
Weekend restrictions (Fridays from 5 p.m. until Sundays at 5 a.m.):
> Beaches will be closed (except this weekend when they will remain open)
> Stores, malls, retail markets, hairdressers, beauty salons, libraries, zoos, museums, pools and other tourist attractions will be closed
Grocery stores, pharmacies and those that sell essential items will remain open, as will opticians and computer and communications repair shops. Also, hotel pools that are accessible to guests only can operate.
The following activities will also be impacted:
> Gatherings - up to 10 people in closed spaces, 20 in open spaces (beginning Friday at 5 p.m.)
> Public reception at government offices - reduced as relevant
> Government offices - 50% of staff will work outside the office or be put on leave
Decisions about camps and other educational programs will be determined in the coming days by the prime minister and alternate prime minister, in consultation with the finance, health and education ministers.
Netanyahu told the cabinet: “We are making every effort to prevent a full lockdown. We are working according to the pace of the coronavirus, and we do not have a lot of choices. This is not a normal situation. This is not a situation that allows us to take steps for a few days and hope it will turn out alright. The disease is changing quickly, and we need to change along with it.”
The goal of the new restrictions is to reduce the number of new daily patients to 400 by August 31, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat said, with the idea that the situation would be assessed again at the end of the summer.
Currently, the average number of daily patients is much higher than that.
The Health Ministry said on Friday that 1,929 people were diagnosed with the virus on Thursday – the highest number of new diagnoses to date. Out of 30,965 tests, the infection rate holds at 6.2%.
There were 26,323 people who actively had the virus as of 6:45 p.m. Friday, among them 208 who are in serious condition. Some 392 people have died.Among the most recent diagnoses are one resident and two employees of the Mishan senior living center in Beersheba. During the first coronavirus peak, the center had a sizeable outbreak that led to the death of 14 residents. An additional employee of the facility had tested positive on Monday.The Health Ministry Magen Avot v'Imahot program is meant to catch corona quickly in elderly homes through regular testing. So far, the country has fared much better at this task during this second peak than the first time around.As Israel Police prepared to enforce the new restrictions, the police disseminated the following statement: “In the coming days, the police will focus on presenting prohibited gatherings, enforcing mask wearing and ensuring that people required to be in quarantine stay there.”
But the police acknowledged the “economic and social difficulties experienced by the public - especially business owners - beyond the health risk involved in mass infection.” By Saturday afternoon, the police reported that they had administered 2,780 fines to people who were not wearing their masks, as well as nearly two dozen tickets to restaurants and businesses operating contrary to Health Ministry directives.
More than 600 people checked into state-run “coronavirus hotels” on Thursday - a record since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Defense Ministry said Friday. Last week, a total of 1,800 Israeli moved into these hotels.The Defense Ministry also said on Friday that it has provided an aid package to the "red zone" city of Beitar Illit, similar to the packages it has provided to other cities who are under closure. The assistance includes "hasbara" funds to help inform citizens of the Health Ministry directives and the availability of coronavirus hotels, as well as food packages and other support.