Coronavirus: Restaurants, event halls, grades 7-10 to open Sunday

Coronavirus commissioner warns that Purim infractions might lead to Passover lockdown, asks to wait with new round of openings as R rate climbs to 1.

A school classroom is seen empty in Jerusalem's Beit Hakerem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A school classroom is seen empty in Jerusalem's Beit Hakerem.
The next phase of lifting Israel's coronavirus restrictions will take place on Sunday as expected, the government approved Monday evening. This will include reopening restaurants, cafés, event halls and grades 7-10.
Starting from next week, cafés and restaurants will be able to welcome green passport holders both indoors and outdoors, while those who do not have a green passport will need to sit outdoors. Moreover, under the green passport outline, event halls will also be able to resume activities. In addition, hotels will be able to resume full activities for those who are fully vaccinated who will also be allowed to attend public lectures in person.
General gatherings will be permitted up to 20 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
As in previous cabinet meetings, the meeting was stormy, with tension escalating between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz as well as between Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Education Minister Yoav Gallant, with the latter pushing to move up returning students to their classrooms.
Opening the meeting, Netanyahu condemned the illegal gatherings that took place during the Purim festivities over the weekend.
“The violations in the secular sector as well as in the ultra-Orthodox sector are intolerable,” he said.
Earlier in the day, also Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash harshly criticized the incidents, warning that the large parties in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem may require closing everything that has been reopened ahead of the Passover holiday.
The government decided to proceed with the new round of openings in spite of the climb in the infection rate to 1 on Monday.
The R rate measures the ability of the disease to spread, indicating how many other people each person carrying the virus will infect. The figure has been increasing across Israel over the past few days, but it is especially high among Arab-Israelis, standing at 1.12.
Maintaining the R rate at 1 or below is one of the criteria that the Health Ministry has set to allow relaxing restrictions, together with the number of people fully vaccinated and the number of patients in serious conditions.
As of Monday morning, there were some 742 patients in serious condition, 232 of whom were on ventilators, according to the ministry. The figures have been slowly but steadily declining in the past few days.
“We will be able to continue to advance in the green passport outline for opening up the economy if we continue to increase the number of vaccinated and continue to stabilize the number of critically ill patients,” Netanyahu remarked, adding that even if the R rate and daily cases increase, Israel might be able to continue lifting restrictions as planned as long as the other two figures are encouraging.
Some 3.3 million Israelis have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, and an additional 1.4 million got the first jab.
Also on Monday, the Health Ministry officially instructed health funds to start vaccinating people who have recovered from the virus starting Tuesday. They will receive one shot at least three months after they recovered.
During the government meeting, Transportation Minister Miri Regev was also expected to present an outline to ensure that Israelis abroad can come back to the country to vote in the March 23 election.
The current restrictions – in place until Saturday - prevent Israelis from leaving or entering the country unless they receive special permission from the appointed governmental exemptions committee.
“We need to get to a situation where every Israeli who wants to come home can return,” Gantz said at the beginning of the meeting. “This can be achieved requiring tests before flying and isolation after.”
Gantz also called on the exemptions committee to make its decisions public. On Friday, a report by Channel 12, suggesting that some 90% of those allowed to fly back to Israel were ultra-Orthodox, caused outrage and speculations that the committee was more inclined to give permission to enter the country to those who are likely to support Netanyahu in the upcoming election.
According to data released by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, some 3,089 people were found infected on Sunday, with 5.2% of the 58,947 tests administered returning a positive result.