Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Medical worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine injection, at Clalit Covid-19 vaccination center in Jerusalem, on January 18, 2021.

Israeli shoppers and business owners alike celebrated this weekend upon hearing the government will allow malls and numerous other commercial venues to reopen in time for consumers to stock up for the upcoming Purim holiday.

Malls, stores, libraries, museums and open-air markets are opening as well.

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Meanwhile, the Coronavirus Cabinet decided Monday that hotels, gyms, pools and cultural and sports events are to be some of the activities made available for holders of the coveted “green passport” documents.

Special activities are being reserved for Israelis who are now the proud holders of a “green passport” which documents the owner is at least a week past the full two-shot series of protective coronavirus vaccine jabs.

Children under age 16, who cannot be vaccinated, can also participate in the special activities, but only after taking a COVID-19 test and producing a negative result to prove their healthy status.

Effective this coming Shabbat, houses of worship will also be able to accept up to 50 percent capacity of worshipers holding green passports, or 10 worshipers indoors and 20 worshipers outdoors.

Three No’s of COVID-19 Purim
With all this reopening going on, one might think we are almost back to normal.

Well, here is the catch: The government is also insisting that the traditional Purim holiday meal this year be restricted to nuclear family only. (Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same deal as last year.)

It’s another version of the “Three Nos”:
No Purim Parade.
No Purim parties.
No Purim gatherings. (This in particular will have serious ramifications for nonprofit organizations in Israel and the US; it will affect the annual Purim fundraising activities in Boro Park, Williamsburg, Lakewood and Monsey.)

Coronavirus Commissioner Professor Nachman Ash told Israel’s Channel 12 television news team in an interview on Monday that it’s important for the public to follow the guidelines and celebrate the holiday “responsibly” because otherwise, there could be another coronavirus wave.

If that happens, the gathering of the families around this year’s seder table promised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just might not happen after all. But Netanyahu seemed pretty upbeat in his own interview with Channel 12.

“I believe that if the citizens of Israel are disciplined, and most of them are, and follow the gradual steps to reopen that we have determined, and if 570,000 people over the age of 50 who have not yet been vaccinated do so, not only will we not have another lockdown, but we will overcome the coronavirus completely,” he said.

Netanyahu also told Channel 12‘s Yonit Levi that he’s been speaking with the heads of Pfizer and Moderna about building vaccine factories in Israel. Not only would that boost the availability of the vaccine to Israel, since it would be locally produced, but it would also raise the country’s economy even further, since global demand is not likely to wither any time soon.

So far, nearly four million Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine; 2.5 million have already received both doses.

There were 3,446 new cases of the virus diagnosed on Sunday out of 47,000 tests carried out during the day, resulting in a 7.6 percent positivity rate, the Health Ministry reported.

At least 979 of those who are currently ill with the virus are listed in serious to critical condition, a figure that includes 307 patients being maintained on ventilators. A total of 5,406 Israelis have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus up to this point.

According to data from the Health Ministry, nearly 75 percent of the people diagnosed with the virus this past weekend were younger than 40; of those in serious condition, 38 percent were younger than 60.

And then of course there are the children who have caught the virus and survived. There are many more children contracting the virus at this point than there were last year at this time, in part due to the more contagious form of the disease, B.1.1.7 — the UK variant.

Towards the goal of addressing that issue, Oxford University is in the midst of beginning a research study with 300 participant subjects ages six to 17 to determine whether its vaccine — the AstraZeneca vaccine — will work in children.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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