Israel loosens corona restrictions with one big caveat

In the private sector, the number of employees allowed into work spaces will double from 15 percent to 30 percent.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

After a month of ever-tightening restrictions that have cost Israel’s economy an estimated 1.5 billion shekels daily and led to spiraling unemployment, Israel’s cabinet voted on Sunday to approve a loosening of the guidelines that will hopefully be the first in a series of steps to get Israel back in business.

The new guidelines will go into effect on Monday with the opening of 10,000 street stops across the country, in particular shops selling electronic equipment, office supplies, home goods, eyewear, computers, books, furniture, sports and music.

Certain stores that sell less-essential goods, such as clothing, shoes, jewelry and toys, will remain shuttered, as will hair and beauty salons. Gyms will also remain closed.

Malls and street markets, popular in Israel for buying fresh produce, meat and spices, but which are tightly packed with people, will remain closed.

In the private sector, the number of employees allowed into work spaces will double from 15 percent to 30 percent.

The government also approved sporting activities involving two people who live together up to 500 meters from their homes. People will be allowed to pray in a quorum of 10 in open spaces.

Education will continue to be taught remotely. On Tuesday, special needs students will return to class but in a limited setting of groups of three students only.

On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced most of these rules, noting that the government has created a “purple badge” safety standard. All industry, services and high-tech will be allowed to return to 100 percent of their work force provided they are scrupulous in adhering to the purple safety standard, which involves social distancing and hygienic guidelines set by the Health Ministry.

The purple standard will run on an honor system. The government won’t monitor adherence and will rely on the industries to police themselves.

Netanyahu set one very large caveat to the loosening of restrictions. If in two-weeks’ time there is another outbreak of the virus, the restrictions will be reimposed.

The government also passed a regulation that police may now fine citizens who don’t wear face masks when in public.

Netanyahu praised the nation for its performance during the corona outbreak.

He said, “Israel is rated very highly in its struggle with corona. Its estimated death rate is among the lowest in the OECD. Also its testing rate is among the highest in the world.”

Netanyahu came in for criticism from his own ministers following his announcement as he failed to inform them before speaking to the public. Their approval, which as noted they gave on Monday, was required before the rules could go into effect.