Malls, markets and gyms back as Israel reopens for business

No timeline has been provided by the government to reopen restaurants. 

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

Israel took a major leap forward on Thursday in reopening its economy as shopping malls, outdoor markets, and fitness centers welcomed patrons back for the first time since they were forced to close 53 days ago due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Shopping malls and outdoor markets must comply with strict Health Ministry guidelines, however.

Signs must be placed at entrances specifying the maximum number of people allowed inside, and notices must be placed at checkout lines reminding customers to maintain social distancing requirements.

In addition, temperatures must be taken upon entry, only those wearing a mask will be allowed to enter, and hand sanitizers must be readily available on site.

Although no special restrictions were announced for gyms, Hebrew media showed that in some gyms every other machine was taped off to create distance between members.

Meanwhile, restaurants are still suffering as no timeline has been provided by the government for their reopening.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai sent a plan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday outlining a path for restaurants and bars to reopen by May 15, reports Channel 13 news.

In the proposal, eateries must abide by a laundry list of hygienic rules, including staff wearing face masks and gloves at all times; disposable, one-use menus; and tables spaced two meters apart.

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“We’re doing everything in our power to help, by means of exemptions from fees and other tools, but they aren’t enough. Rescuing the [restaurant] industry with its hundreds of thousands of workers is in the hands of the government,” Huldai said in the plan.

According to Israel Restaurant Association CEO Shai Berman, the restaurant industry is on the verge of collapse.

“Deliveries are a very small and insignificant part of the volume, about 15 percent,” Berman said during a meeting with the Special Committee on Dealing With the Coronavirus on April 26.

“The industry is closed. More than 80 percent of the industry is inactive. People in the industry have not seen one shekel, because the bank traditionally does not like to give out loans to restaurants,” he said.

On May 4, in an address televised to the nation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined an exit strategy from the crisis. He praised Israel’s response and noted that it had emerged from the pandemic in better shape than many Western countries.