New restrictions kick in as infections continue unabated

Israel sets new infection record as government reimposes restrictions on indoor/outdoor gatherings, restaurants, and enacts new weekend shutdowns.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Hoping to avoid the need for a national lockdown as coronavirus infections hit a record high, Israel on Friday imposed new health restrictions that will see the country shut down on weekends.

In a joint message from the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Health, the government laid out the new restrictions that include new weekend closures from 5:00 p.m. on Friday until Sunday morning at 5.L00 a.m, warning that “violation of any of the said restrictions will constitute a criminal offense.”

Israelis will be allowed to leave their homes, but over the weekend the government has ordered the closure of beaches, malls, shops, retail markets, hairdressers, beauty salons, libraries, zoos, public pools, museums and tourist attractions.

Apparently given the lateness of the decision, the government said it will leave beaches open this weekend.

New restrictions that will be effective all week will close gyms and sports studios, with a ban on seating at restaurants that can remain open for takeout orders only. After media reports last weekend showed packed swimming pools at hotels, the new rules state hotel restaurants and pools can remain open, but for guests only with dining limited to 35 percent of the maximum permitted occupancy.

Stores that sell food, pharmacies and other essential services are not affected by the new restrictions.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid lashed out at the new regulations, saying it was impossible for citizens to understand the constant flip-flops in decision making.

“This disconnected government has gone mad,” Lapid tweeted. “An entire country is trying to understand the guidelines for the weekend, and is not succeeding. An entire country is trying to figure out without success why decisions are made in the middle of the night without any data.”

The Health Ministry Friday reported another 1,819 new infections in the past day bringing the total number of Israelis currently infected with the virus to a record 25,636. The number of people hospitalized with coronavirus continues to climb with 583 currently admitted and of those, 213 are in serious condition. The death toll rose by one overnight to 387.

Faced with the increasing morbidity rate, the government also re-imposed restrictions on group gatherings and starting at 5:00 p.m. Friday those are limited to 10 people in a closed space and up to 20 people in an open space.

Beginning next week half of Israel’s civil service will work from home, seating is banned at workplace cafeterias and the government will make a decision on what to do with the education system.