Netanyahu scales back corona rules, announces road map to eliminate all restrictions

The prime minister called Israel’s response to the coronavirus a “great success” and presented major steps to relax restrictions.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

On Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set forth the next phase of Israel’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis, touting the nation’s response to the pandemic in comparison with other countries.

Under the new directives, Israelis can now gather together outside in groups of 20 or less, with that number slated to increase to 50 next week to accommodate weddings, which traditionally take place on the Lag B’Omer holiday. This year, the holiday will occur next Monday night and Tuesday.

“On May 31, 100 people will be permitted [to gather] and on June 14 all restrictions will be abolished,” said the prime minister, provided that no red flags indicate heightened risks of infection.

Netanyahu also announced that 100-meter limits on movement were cancelled, in addition to ending restrictions on visiting extended family.

“You can visit family members, including grandma and grandpa,” said Netanyahu, “but don’t hug and kiss them, and don’t touch. You must keep your distance. I know its hard, but it’s very important.”

This Thursday, malls and open-air markets will be permitted to reopen, but Netanyahu warned people not to consume food there.

Gyms and sports clubs are also set to reopen, with the exception of swimming pools and related facilities.

Warning signs

As a precaution, Netanyahu announced that Israel will use three criteria to determine if Israel needs to reimpose restrictions. Specifically, Israel will monitor whether: (1) 100 new cases arise in one day, (2) cases double within 10 days, and (3)  hospitals report 250 severe cases of the virus.

Netanyahu also stressed that Israelis for the time being must continue to observe social distancing, wash hands frequently, and wear face masks in public.

The prime minister referred to the three practices as the “Seder of corona,” comparing them in jest to the rituals of the Passover Seder, the meal that brings in the holiday.

In addition to announcing steps to roll back restrictions, Netanyahu thanked Israel’s doctors, nurses and other medical workers, calling the corona pandemic “a plague like we haven’t seen in 100 years.”

Netanyahu contrasted Israel’s numbers with the devastation COVID-19 wrought in Italy, Great Britain, Spain, France, and the United States, comparing Israel’s favorable outcome to other locations of similar size, such as Belgium and New York City.

“We learned from the world and the world learned from us,” said Netanyahu.