New coronavirus cases totaled 1,069 in last 24 hours, the Health Ministry reported on Thursday, Nov. 26. Out of 60,000 tests, too many, 1.8pc, proved positive. Yet Wednesday night, the cabinet decided to go forward and allow the first 15 shopping malls to reopen up until Dec. 6 in a pilot scheme starting for the heavily touted “Black Friday” sales.
Out of 2,826 actively ill with the virus, 282 are in serious condition. The number of fatalities has climbed to 2,826.
The six largest shopping malls in the cities of Jerusalem, Haifa, Kiryat Bialik, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikva and Beersheba were approved for reopening at once, the remaining nine chosen by lottery. Health Ministry inspectors are to be posted at every level of the malls to monitor compliance with health restrictions, including crowding inside and outside the stores. Violations of the rules will carry fines of NIS5,000 ($1,500) for store owners.
Outdoor markets and four museums are part of the experiment, with health inspectors posted at entrances. Reopened provisionally to the public for the first time since September are the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Eretz Israel Museum and the National Museum of Science, Technology and Space in Haifa. Eating is banned at all the reopened venues since they require the removal of face masks.
The impact of this major step for restoring the country’s retail trade – and the effectiveness of the health restrictions in force – will be evaluated before it is extended for general use by all the malls and markets, which have been closed since the mid-September lockdown. The reopening of preschool and first grade school grades two weeks ago did not directly impact the coronavirus figures, although the initial dip has begun to be reversed. The school system will therefore be reactivated in full in the coming two weeks along with expanded screening for infection.
However, health experts are warning that a major surge in coronavirus infection would reactivate the restrictions and force a third lockdown. Strict observance of the guidelines is mandatory until a vaccine reaches general use at an unknown date in 2021. Even then, the first batches will be assigned to medical staff and the highest-risk population groups.