Israel opens for business, corona be damned (sort of)

Israel’s corona cabinet took a big step toward opening the economy on Monday against the recommendations of its health advisors.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel’s corona cabinet on Monday decided to throw caution to the wind, ignore warnings of the health experts and reopen for business (sort of), starting next Sunday, Feb. 21.

Malls, open-air shopping centers, markets, street shops, museums, libraries and houses of worship will reopen.

However, the “sort of” comes into play when one sees that those who want to visit gyms, cultural and sports venues, hotels and swimming pools will need a special pass proving they’ve received a second dose of the corona vaccine or have recovered from the coronavirus.

No such requirement will be in place for patronizing street shops, malls, shopping centers, open-air markets and the rest.

Many of the pre-lockdown restrictions will remain in place. Only 10 people can pray indoors and up to 20 outdoors. Places of worship have the option to increase that number, but only if everyone has been vaccinated.

Businesses also must follow tight guidelines. In malls, for example, there is a 30% occupancy rate while individual shops are permitted one customer per every 15 meters. Eating and drinking is still not allowed in the malls, N12 reports.

And not until March 7 will small cafes and restaurants be able to seat customers without first seeing proof of vaccination or a certificate showing they’ve recovered from the disease. Following that date, the number of people who can congregate is expected to expand to 20 indoors and 50 outdoors.

Israeli politicians have been promising that this is the last lockdown. Finance Minister Yisrael Katz told Channel 12 this week, “This will be the last opening. There will be no more lockdowns… It’s going to open for good.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also said this lockdown will be the last, though with the caveat that only if those over 50 get vaccinated.

“I call on all of those 570,000 people over the age of 50 who have not yet been vaccinated: Go and get vaccinated! Not just for your health but for all of our health,” Netanyahu said. “Our victory over the pandemic depends on you.”

He noted that the over-50 age group is where nearly 100% of the pandemic’s fatalities fall.