Israel takes “controlled risk” in initial exit from coronavirus restrictions

Israel’s economy will be restarted in cautious stages starting this week. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, unveiling stage one on Saturday night, April 18, stressed that it was made possible by the slowdown of coronavirus infection as a result of restrictions and public self-discipline. But they will be rolled back in the event of a resurgence of the disease.  

  • Up to 30pc of the work force will return to their jobs, compared with 15pc until now. Industry, certain street stores, services and government offices will be reopened under “coronavirus rules” – i.e. No more than 8 people in an office, no more than 4 customers in a shop – all maintaining a distance of 2m, earing facemasks at all times and washing hands. Shops will raise screens between customers and cashiers. Employers will be held responsible for the health of their staff.
  • Shops allowed to open will continue to include food stores and pharmacies, but also electrical goods, computers, books, opticians – but not clothing or shoes, hairdressers or beauty salons at this stage. Restaurants are also restricted to takaway and delivery service.
  • Working from home remains the preferred option.
  • Pensioners who worked before the coronavirus may return to their jobs unless they suffer serious background ailments. Others will remain at home.
  • Public transport services will be adjusted to the economic dynamic.
  • Schools will remain shuttered. Shared care for children is limited to groups of three. Special needs education will be restored in limited form.
  • Leaving home is now allowed within a 500m radius – up from 100m – and outside sports is held down to couples.

Moshe Bar-Simantov and Shay Babad, directors-general of the Health and Finance Ministries, joined the prime minister in stressing that the new relaxations of coronavirus restrictions are seen as a “controlled risk” and an experimental step whose outcome will be evaluated in two weeks. They appealed to the public to stick to the rules.  In the foreseeable future, Netanyahu said, our lives will be ruled by the “coronavirus routine” until a vaccine is discovered.
He took the opportunity to appeal once again to opposition leader Benny Gantz to join him in a national emergency government so badly needed at this time.
All three appealed to Muslim citizens to limit their Ramadan festival celebrations starting next week to the “nuclear family,” just as their Jewish compatriots did in Passover.

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