Malls, hotels, gyms, commercial activities and cultural venues, as well as grades 5-6 and 11-12, in green, yellow and light-orange cities will be allowed to reopen on Sunday, the coronavirus cabinet decided Monday.
The ministers also agreed on a specific outline for synagogues and the upcoming festival of Purim, which will already apply this Shabbat.
According to the plan, some activities will be reserved for holders of “green passports,” which are granted to those who are at least a week past their second coronavirus vaccine shot or who have recovered from the virus.
These venues include hotels, gyms, pools and cultural and sports events. Children under the age of 16, who cannot be vaccinated, will be required to take a negative test.
Malls, stores, libraries, museums and open-air markets will reopen under “purple ribbon” standards, which incorporate social-distancing measures regardless of the customers’ vaccination status.
Starting this upcoming Shabbat, synagogues and houses of worship will be able to choose between functioning at 50% of capacity for holders of green passports or with a limit of 10 worshipers indoors and 20 outdoors.
For Purim, the traditional holiday meal will be restricted to nuclear families. The Health Ministry said it would organize a public-relations campaign to persuade people to host only family members who are eligible for the green passport. Other forms of parades, parties and gatherings will be banned.
The plan was crafted in collaboration with United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni.
In 2020, Purim events caused a peak of infections both in Israel and in the Diaspora. The public should follow the rules and celebrate responsibly, otherwise there could be a new wave of infection, coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash told Channel 12 on Monday.
The cabinet also decided that additional restrictions will be lifted starting on March 7. By then, grades 7-10 will reopen in green, yellow and light-orange localities. In addition, cafés and small restaurants will be able to welcome patrons again under purple-ribbon guidelines, and other restaurants under green-passport directives. Permitted gatherings will be expanded to 20 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
“I believe that if the citizens of Israel are disciplined, and most of them are, and follow the gradual steps to reopen that we have determined, and if 570,000 people over the age of 50 who have not yet been vaccinated do so, not only will we not have another lockdown, but we will overcome the coronavirus completely,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday in an interview on Channel 12.
The agreement reached represents a compromise between the Health Ministry, which was supported by Netanyahu, who wanted to reopen on February 23, and Blue and White ministers, who pushed to lift restrictions this week.
The meeting began with Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz accusing each other of political games and irresponsibility.
Netanyahu’s coronavirus economic plan was “election bribery,” Gantz said.
The cabinet will reconvene on Tuesday to discuss the economic plan and on Thursday to examine further openings in the education system.
Earlier on Monday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said the Health Ministry was studying legislation that would require unvaccinated teachers and workers who deal with customers in person to take a test every two days.
“A teacher who does not get vaccinated neglects the well-being of the students and their most important role: to protect the children,” he said.
Edelstein recently expressed support for the idea of forcing teachers and other public workers to get inoculated.
Almost four million people had received at least the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of Monday, and 2.5 million have had both. About 2.2 million Israelis are already eligible for the green passport.
The infection data continued to show a steady if slow improvement.
The reproduction rate, which measures the ability of the disease to spread, further declined and stood at 0.85.
Some 3,446 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported on Sunday, with 7.6% of some 47,000 tests performed returning positive, the Health Ministry reported Monday morning.
The number of active coronavirus cases dropped to fewer than 55,000 from some 70,000 a few days ago.
Of those infected, 979 were in serious condition, with 307 on ventilators, also confirming a slow but steady decline. The death toll rose overnight to 5,406.