Despite a steep rise in the number of people being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, Israeli cultural institutions can re-open as early as Friday. At the same time, the Health Ministry has committed to hiring new contact trackers in the immediate future.
The government approved the opening of performance halls, concerts, plays and movie theaters under Health Ministry guidelines on Friday. As soon as they are ready, cultural institutions can open for events of up to 250 people - all of whom must be sitting down.
Attendees will be asked to wear masks at all events. There will be no intermissions.
Also, tickets must be ordered in advance and the names and contact information of all attendees must be maintained by the establishment for up to 20 days.
“The train is back, we have opened up the world of culture and weddings, and people can go back to work,” wrote Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on his Facebook page on Friday. “We will try to live under the coronavirus routine.”
He said that Israel is living in precarious times and “if we are not careful, we will find ourselves in a much more serious condition than we were. This is the most important issue now for the State of Israel.”
The defense minister’s words came as the number of coronavirus patients hit close to 350 in a 24-hour period.
As in recent days, despite the government’s designation of several new red zones - areas with high infection rates - most new diagnoses were made in other cities and towns. In total, as of Saturday afternoon, some 20,533 Israelis have been diagnosed with coronavirus, according to the National Security Council - an increase of 194 since 5:30 p.m. the day before, when numbers were last shared by the Health Ministry. In addition, NSC showed 4,598 actives cases, up 149 from the previous day. Some 39 patients are in serious condition, among them 29 who are intubated.One more person died, too, bringing the death toll to 305.It is logical that more and more people will test positive, as since the beginning of the month an increasing number of people are being screened. On Thursday, the Health Ministry reported testing more than 17,000 people.
“There is an increase in the number of people infected,” Gantz continued, “numbers we have not seen since April.”
He cautioned that the public is not adhering to Health Ministry recommendations: wearing masks, social distancing and good hygiene.
“I urge you, citizens of Israel, to listen to the instructions, take care of yourself and your parents,” Gantz wrote on Facebook. “We have no interest or desire to go backwards.”
His comments came one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel has finished opening more of the economy – at least for the time being.
Speaking Thursday at a ceremony celebrating the retirement of outgoing-Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, Netanyahu said that, “There is no doubt that we need to stop the disease. The disease is coming back, and we have, at least for now, finished opening up the economy.”
On Friday, the Health Ministry showed that 121 doctors and 233 nurses were in isolation, in addition to 393 other health personnel.
Two preschools in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhood of Bnei Brak were closed when a teacher was infected with coronavirus. In addition, a municipality worker tested positive, sending several of the person’s co-workers into quarantine.
Additionally, schools in Ashdod and Rehovot had to close because of infection. Moreover, a school in Mevaseret Zion, a suburb of Jerusalem, was closed after one of its students tested positive, as well.
Police are working to ensure that the public follows the rules. Overnight Thursday, Police inspected 744 businesses, including event halls, clubs and pubs, discovering and fining dozens of violators, the Police said. Some business owners were warned, and others were summoned for a hearing.