In sharp policy turn, restaurants, beaches and schools stay open

Netanyahu, Gantz agree on ‘check for every citizen’

Knesset coronavirus committee meets to discuss ongoing regulations in Israel, July 19, 2020 (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - ADINA WALLMAN)
Knesset coronavirus committee meets to discuss ongoing regulations in Israel, July 19, 2020
Pools, beaches, restaurants and schools are still open despite a government decision last week to close them.
The Knesset coronavirus committee voted on Monday in favor of leaving them open even on the weekends, coinciding with what looks like a new government policy to allow for activities in open spaces and close events that take place inside.
At the same time, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that schools will remain open at least until Thursday, pending further discussion at the end of the week.
Also, the government was expected to meet late Monday to change its decision on restaurants, which were supposed to revert to takeout and delivery on Friday and then on Tuesday morning. The government was considering allowing restaurants to seat up to 50 people outside.
However, even if the decision passes, the coronavirus committee is set to discuss restaurants on Tuesday, and it has other ideas. It wants to see restaurants seat patrons indoors and outdoors – but to limit indoor seating to 35% of capacity.
On Tuesday, the committee will also discuss the fate of the country’s gyms, which have been closed since Friday.
As the chaos around what should and should not be closed continues, more Israelis are getting infected with the novel coronavirus.
At press time on Monday, the Health Ministry reported that an additional 1,008 people were diagnosed with the virus the day before. Although fewer than 20,000 tests were administered, making it appear that the number was falsely low, the infection rate dropped to 5% from 7% last week.
Some 264 people are in serious condition. Also, the death toll continues to increase. So far, 415 Israelis have died from the virus.
“The decision not to close public pools and beaches is right and justified,” MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud), who heads the coronavirus committee, said after it was determined that the government had changed its policy. “Beaches and swimming pools are vital.”
“We all are working together to fight the virus,” she said. “For all of us, economic, mental and physical health are extremely important.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid also celebrated the decision.
“Congratulations to the chairman of the committee, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, and to the members of the coronavirus committee, who fought for the State of Israel,” he said on Twitter.
Also on Monday, a document published by the Civil Aviation Authority announced that entry of foreigners into the country would be banned until at least September.
According to the document, anyone arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport without a special permit will be turned away.
The Airports Authority clarified its statement soon after the document was shared by the media: “The skies are not closed, and Ben-Gurion Airport is open. However, until September 1, foreign passport holders will not be allowed in, and the 14-day isolation agreement remains as it has been in recent
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Israel Katz and Economy Minister Amir Peretz on Monday agreed on how to handle the “check for every citizen” program and approved the NIS 6 billion stipend.
Blue and White’s position to modify it in favor of helping the weaker members of Israeli society was accepted, and NIS 500 million will be provided for the needy.
The program offers grants to almost all Israelis to get “the wheels of the economy spinning again,” Netanyahu said last week. It is expected to be presented to the government and Knesset for final approval on Tuesday.
The cabinet agreed that NIS 750 will be added to the benefits currently offered to the disabled, those on welfare, the elderly, unemployed people over the age of 67 and new immigrants (olim). About 800,000 people will receive the grant.
In addition, it was decided that state officials earning more than NIS 30,000 per month will not get it, nor will people who earn more than NIS 640,000 per year.
According to the original plan, families with one child will receive NIS 2,000; families with two children, NIS 2,500; families of three or more, NIS 3,000; and individuals 18 and older will get NIS 750.
Peretz said: “It’s very important that the message will be that the weaker groups in society are first [in the government’s] priority list at this time."
The “check for every citizen” program was heavily criticized by the Finance Ministry, with Budget Department head Shaul Meridor telling Netanyahu: “This will turn us into Venezuela.” In response, Meridor was slammed on social media by Likud MKs for his alleged “sabotage” of government policy.
Rossella Tercatin contributed to this report.

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