Malls reopen across Israel despite mounting concerns of third lockdown

Peretz: 200,000 workers will be able to resume their day jobs, malls must keep “Purple Badge” regulations.

Tel Aviv Fashion Mall reopening (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Tel Aviv Fashion Mall reopening
Shopping malls across the country reopened on Wednesday after the two-week-long pilot run, during which 15 selected malls were allowed to function under restrictions, was lauded as a success.
Approved by the government’s coronavirus cabinet on Tuesday night, the decision allows the country’s roughly 180 shopping malls to reopen under the “Purple Badge” regulations.
Documentary filmmaker Dvorit Shargal, who has covered
COVID-19 content extensively on social media, told The Jerusalem Post that the Dizengoff Center shopping mall was nearly empty on Wednesday morning.
“I was the only one to enter it,” she wrote. “Few shoppers were inside.”
She noted that mall workers meant to ensure that the health instructions were kept were wearing their masks perfectly – unlike the shoppers they were meant to serve.
“I saw two elderly women in their 60s who met, hugged each other, and immediately removed their masks so they could talk,” she told the Post. “If I was an inspector I could have handed out thousands of reports.”
Calling the reopening “an important, significant step,” Economy Minister Amir Peretz said that roughly 200,000 workers will be able to resume their day jobs thanks to the decision. Half that many are already helping shoppers eager to visit the malls before the upcoming Hanukkah and Christmas holidays, TheMarker reported.
To gain a “Purple Badge,” the mall authorities must have a digital means to count the number of people entering and exiting the malls, with entrances and exits being as far away as possible from one another. Each shopper entering the mall will enjoy 15 sq.m. as his “personal zone” to prevent overcrowding. After malls attempted to boost their figures by presenting closed-down movie houses and fitness centers as part of the “space” they can offer shoppers, current Health Ministry guidelines forbid doing so.
To stay open, malls must hire staff to patrol the space and ensure that people are wearing masks correctly and following the guidelines. The bigger the mall, the more such workers are needed, and they must ensure that sufficient space is kept between shoppers standing in line.
“In central
Tel Aviv, where there are many young people, most just ignore the health regulations,” Shargal said, “I have no idea why. People wear masks incorrectly or just sit outside [in the street], smoking and drinking coffee.”
SITTING DOWN in a mall in order to get a bite to eat is prohibited – and it is also not allowed to set up tables or chairs for that purpose. However, it is likely that nobody would remove a shopper sipping water from a bottle as they wait in line.
“Drinking inside the mall is allowed,” Dizengoff Center marketing manager Alex Kaplan told the Post, but “eating is not.”
“We opened the roof of the mall so that people could get a bite to eat in the open air,” he said.
According to Kaplan, until 5 p.m. the mall saw 11,000 visitors, half of the daily number during pre-COVID-19 days.
“We don’t see a surge of people mobbing the shops, and most people follow the health guidelines,” he pointed out. “I myself, as do other managers, put on a yellow vest and tell people to put their masks on correctly when I walk out of the office.”
Mall operators are also meant to ensure air flow in the mall so that, during each workday, the air would be refreshed at least three times.
“The whole thing can work, or crash, based on people caring about each other,” Shargal told the Post. “If you walk out of your house, you become dependent on other people for your own health and safety. There was a massive failure in informing people that the point is to do everything possible so as to not get infected.”
Malls were allowed to open in all cities and towns, regardless of their COVID-19 infection rates.
Peretz called on shoppers to visit “during all hours of the day and not at peak hours,” to prevent possible infections and to keep the “Purple Badge” guidelines.
TLV Fashion Mall informed the Post that it has opened 15 sanitation stands throughout the mall, hired five workers to ensure shoppers are well behaved and are using 200 liters of disinfectant per month to follow the guidelines.
The government was on the verge of approving a night curfew to combat the growing rate of COVID-19 infections across the country, but declined doing so after being informed that it could not legally justify such a drastic move. The Health Ministry and other health experts refused to back such a move, as it would have been ineffective anyway, N12 reported on Tuesday evening.
“We have a lot of criticism regarding how decisions were made during this pandemic,” Kaplan said. “We returned hundreds of people to work, and we very much hope that we won’t be shut down again.
“We demand transparency,” he said, asking: “What are the infection rates at shopping centers? Why are they making such and such decisions and not others? What data are these policies based on?”
The Forum of Fitness Center Owners announced on Tuesday that it intends to resume full operations two days before Christmas in light of the recent decision to open shopping malls.
The press release said that, to serve the health needs of a million and a half Israelis, gyms will open in green and yellow cities only.
Only existing clients could work out, and people will be asked to check their temperature before entering.
Nearly half of Israelis gained weight during the lockdown, and 80% among existing clients were unable to find a substitute to the gym, the report claimed.
The forum reported that, when the issue is fitness, all political parties agree that it’s time to feel the burn again.