As Israel reopens malls, markets, and national parks, the rate of coronavirus fatalities and infections continues to drop off.
By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News
On Saturday morning, Israel announced that the nation recorded no new coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours.
This was the first full day since March 28 that Israel reported no new deaths from COVID-19, which has infected over 16,400 Israelis and killed 247 as of Saturday evening.
The announcement arrived just days after malls and open-air markets reopened for business, with national parks permitting visitors on Saturday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic brought the nation and much of the world to a grinding halt.
On Thursday, Jerusalem’s iconic Mahane Yehuda market reopened, a national landmark where locals and tourists alike crowd in six days a week to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and dine at trendy gastro pubs and eateries.
Tel Aviv also reopened its Carmel and Hatikva markets on Thursday.
All businesses in Israel must comply with a detailed set of rules that requires social distancing of customers, maximum numbers of patrons per square meter, and health and hygiene protocols for employees and facilities.
At open-air markets in Tel Aviv, for instance, authorities fenced off entrances, placed markings on the ground to insure social distancing, and hung posters with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines visible to customers and merchants alike.
As Israel sees coronavirus infections and fatalities plummet, it prepares to face its next big test with arrival of the Lab B’Omer holiday on Monday evening and Tuesday. The day is usually marked with massive bonfires across the country that attract huge crowds, with the nation’s largest holiday gathering taking place at Mount Meron. Hundreds of thousands of religious pilgrims and casual revelers descend on the holy site in northern Israel to celebrate the legacy of the Jewish sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who died on this day during the second century and is buried there.
While mass celebrations have been cancelled at Meron this year, Israelis may be tempted to gather in other locations in light of loosened restrictions on gatherings and movement.
Last Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that starting on Lag B’Omer, Israelis may hold weddings and funerals with 50 people in attendance. Netanyahu also announced that Israel plans to abolish all restrictions on June 14, provided that no red flags indicate heightened risks of infection.
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.