Photo Credit: Miriam Alster / Flash 90
Shoppers wear protective face masks at Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv after it reopened to the public, as previous restrictions taken to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, were eased, on May 19, 2020.

The number of Israelis diagnosed with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is once again beginning to rise, just as the last set of draconian restrictions is being relaxed and life in the Jewish State is s-l-o-w-l-y beginning to return to “normal” — that is, whatever the new normal may turn out to be.

Children have returned to their classrooms and a pilot allowing some 15 shopping malls to reopen started last week, but lo and behold, the number of active cases of the virus is once again skyrocketing.

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The bad news comes just in time for Hanukah, when store owners, business people and tourist agencies are depending upon sales to recoup their monumental COVID-19-related losses from the past year.

Now Israelis are beginning to ask when the government will impose the next lockdown: rumors are flying about the timetable, and all that’s left to do is to begin taking bets on the date.

Amendments to Mall Pilot
The ministerial coronavirus committee met Monday evening in a conference call to discuss amendments to the outline for the mall pilot program. The committee voted to approve the outline, as follows:

1. Regarding the maximum permitted occupancy in a mall, the occupancy will change from one person per seven square meters to one person per 15 square meters.

2. Regarding the area in the stores themselves, in addition to the rule that applies in the main regulations (according to which occupancy will be one person per seven square meters up to 10 people), in “large” stores of over 150 square meters, maximum occupancy will be one person per 15 square meters (without determining a ‘numerical ceiling’ on the number of those present).

Calculating area regarding the permitted occupancy in a mall (in the common areas) will not include public and commercial places in the mall the operation of which is prohibited (such as movie theaters in the mall).

COVID-19 Numbers On the Rise
For the first time in weeks, the Health Ministry reported Monday evening that the number of active cases of the coronavirus exceeded 10,000.

There were 1,018 newly-diagnosed cases of the virus, bringing the battle to a total of 10,148 Israelis fighting the coronavirus, including 260 listed in serious condition, of whom 89 required ventilators to be able to breathe.

A total of 2,865 Israelis have lost their lives to COVID-19 as of late Monday evening.

Arab Neighborhoods Designated Red Zones
Two Arab neighborhoods were added to the Red Zone list on Monday night, according to the Hebrew-language Walla! News site.

Red Zones Return to Some Communities as Health Ministry Reports COVID-19 Spreading Again in Israel

The Arab village of Daburiya, near the town of Nazareth, was marked for closure as a Red Zone for the next five days.

In addition, the Number Five Neighborhood in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat has also been designated as a Red Zone for the next five days.

Last Wednesday, the Ministerial Committee on Restricted Zones decided to designate two neighborhoods in the Negev Bedouin town of Kuseife, a neighborhood in the Negev Bedouin town of Hura, and in the Arab town of Reineh in northern Israel, as coronavirus Red Zones, until this week Tuesday at 5 pm.

Residents are not allowed to leave Red Zones and non-residents are not allowed to enter; checkpoints are erected at the entrances and exits of the community or neighborhood to ensure compliance. The designation is assigned when the number of coronavirus cases has passed a certain threshold; the restrictions are implemented as a means of curbing the rise in the number of cases.

There are rumors that ministers are discussing the possibility of another lockdown either at mid-December or sometime in January. Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy has denied the ministry and Coronavirus Cabinet planned to implement a lockdown for the upcoming Hanukah holiday, which begins on December 10.

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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.