Coronavirus openings: Beaches, synagogues, restaurants and more

Wednesday: No restriction on number of bus passengers at peak times * less than 3,000 active cases

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visit banquet hall owners (photo credit: Courtesy)
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visit banquet hall owners
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The government approved early Wednesday morning eased restrictions on social distancing and gathering in public spaces, after Health Minister Yuli Edelstein formally assumed his new role on Monday. On Tuesday, he said a series of coronavirus restrictions would be lifted by Wednesday.
Parents, students and workers will have an easier time on their morning and afternoon commute, and if they want, they can also stop at the beach.
Beginning Wednesday, coronavirus restrictions on the number of passengers on buses will be lifted during peak hours, in the first decision made by new Transportation Minister Miri Regev together with Edelstein. The move is meant to benefit the education system, the Transportation Ministry said in a statement.
The buses affected by the new directive are those that run from 7-8:30 a.m. and 1-3 p.m., when children generally travel to and from school.
Discussions will be held later this week to examine expansion of public transportation in general, Regev’s office said. The trains will remain closed until at least the end of the month.
Also, preschools and schools will open at 7:30 a.m. starting on Wednesday.
“In my tour this morning, I found that the bottleneck created at 7:55 a.m. poses a health and transportation hazard and makes it difficult for parents and educational staff,”  newly appointed Education Minister Yoav Galant tweeted Tuesday night.
Similarly, it was announced that museums will be permitted to operate as long as the exhibits are not interactive and require touch. 
Synagogues will also open Wednesday, the prime minister shared in a late-night message. Synagogues were among the top sites of infection during the early days of the pandemic. Up to 50 people can pray together, maintaining a distance of two meters. All prayer-goers must wear masks.
The bathing season, which had been delayed from April 1, will start with 136 beaches opening up across the country.
The beaches must maintain “Purple Ribbon” status from the Health Ministry, requiring those who want to swim or sunbathe to keep a distance of two meters from each other. Washrooms will be disinfected every hour, and showers and changing facilities will remain closed.
The Health Ministry originally said beaches would open on June 1, but Interior Minister Arye Deri said opening bathing season was necessary and pushed for the Purple Ribbon compromise.
According to his ministry, tens of millions of shekels were allocated to coastal authorities to operate under these restrictions.
Since the number of coronavirus cases continues to decline, more places are expected to open within a week.
At press time, there were 2,946 active cases of the virus in the country, including 38 patients who were intubated. At last count, 278 people had died.
Restaurants and cafés will be permitted to reopen on May 27 after an agreement was reached between the Health Ministry and the Israeli Restaurants Association, the association announced via a Facebook post.
The sector has been one of the hardest hit due to the measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The government’s coronavirus exit strategy, announced in early May, initially provided for the reopening of restaurants and cafés at the end of May or mid-June.
According to the agreement, published by the Health Ministry, restaurants that hold 100 customers can operate at full occupancy. Larger restaurants can operate at 85% occupancy. Tables will need to be positioned at least 1.5 meters apart, and reservations are recommended.
Like businesses and beaches, restaurants will be required to maintain Purple Ribbon standards for hygiene and cleanliness.
Some 14,000 restaurants, bars and cafés are expected to open, the Restaurants Association said.
At the same time, many other facilities will open: swimming pools, hotels (including dining rooms and pools) and after-school activities and youth groups.
Pools will be allowed to host one person per 10 square meters. Hotels will operate under strict Health Ministry hygiene guidelines similar to those of restaurants and pools.
On Tuesday, banquet halls were told they could open for business on June 14. The owners of these facilities had gone on a hunger strike in protest against the restrictions, which they said had cost many of them their businesses.
“As one who has been starved for extended periods of time in the past... I sought to approve the opening of the halls,” Edelstein told owners during a visit to one of the protest sites. But the coronavirus is still “out there. I ask you to guard your health,” he added.
Eytan Halon contributed to this report.