Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90
This Tel Aviv restaurant is scheduled to reopen on Sunday, March 7, God willing.

The coefficient of the Corona infections in Israel is again higher than 1, precisely at a time when it is declining in the Arab sector. According to the health ministry’s updated data on Friday, the infection rate rose to 1.01. In the Arab sector, the coefficient dropped to 1.06, while in the Haredi it jumped to 0.96, after dropping below 0.7. This must be very frustrating to the health professionals attempting to guide healthcare policy. It’s also extremely alarming because when the coefficient of infection is higher than 1 it means that the pandemic is spreading again.

Haredi men pray outside the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mt. Meron (archive). / David Cohen/Flash90

All of this is taking place just ahead of the planned reopening of the economy on Sunday, after the health, tourism, and sports ministries have reached agreements with the business owners on the green and purple outlines of controlling and monitoring the reopening. The agreements are expected to be approved on Friday.

Fifth graders at the Alomot elementary school in Efrat, February 21, 2021. / Gershon Elinson/Flash90

According to the outline, middle school children will return to the classrooms, Cafes and restaurants, banquet and conference halls and other attractions will be back in operation. Hotels will be allowed to open their dining rooms,

Also, there will be some relief in the congestion restrictions so that establishments can admit 20 people indoors and 50 people outside.

The latest data on the pandemic show 3,628 new verified infections out of 92,177 test results obtained Thursday. The good news is that the rate of positive corona tests on Thursday dropped to 4%, the lowest since December 24th.

There are currently 690 patients in serious condition in Israel, of whom 225 are on respirators. 5,832 have died since the outbreak of the pandemic. 4,901,143 Israelis have received the first dose of the vaccine, 3,654,797 the second.

The restaurant industry will be seating diners inside and outside according to the green and purple tags: restaurants will be allowed to use 75% of their indoor occupancy with green tag customers (who are 2-weeks past their second vaccination), and 100 customers outdoors with the purple tag (under the restrictions of the health ministry: facemasks, normal temperature, social distancing).

Banquet halls will be able to operate in the green tag format at up to 50% occupancy, and no more than 300 people.

There is still no agreement on the admission of children under the age of 16 who can’t be vaccinated in places that will reopen, but the government is looking into letting businesses use quick testing on children and let in those who test negative.

Dining rooms in hotels will also operate with the green tag format – up to 50% occupancy and up to 300 people.

The general crowd limit in dining businesses will be no more than 20 people in a closed room and no more than 50 people outside.

The CEO of the Bars and Restaurants Association, Shai Berman, told Reshet Bet radio on Friday morning that the layout suggested for reopening is not easy: “We can’t, for example, reach 75% occupancy inside while maintaining social distancing, but we want to start working regardless, most of all, we want to try to get our workers back.”

Berman noted that even if the outline is approved on Friday, “many hundreds of businesses will not open next week simply because they have no employees. According to estimates we have made, there is a shortage of 50,000 workers in the industry – people prefer to stay at home and collect the government stipend, and you can’t blame them.”

Yes, these are the wonders of Israeli socialism: nowadays it is much more profitable for an Israeli worker to live on a government stipend than to return to his job from a year ago.

Israeli Premier League matches are conducted in empty arenas (archive). / Flash90

The outline that emerges in culture and sports events is of an increase in the number of admissions. The ministries of Culture and Sports and Health have agreed on an outline that will increase the number of spectators in the culture halls and sports arenas. According to the outline, which is subject to government approval, a complex containing more than ten thousand seats will be able to accommodate an audience of up to 1,000 people in a closed space and 1,500 in an open space, regardless of occupancy rates.

In culture halls and sports arenas, food will be served by waiters to the audience in their seats.

These are the options for entertainment halls:

• In a closed hall with up to 10,000 seats – up to 75% of the space can be occupied, with no more than 500 spectators.

• In a hall with more than 10,000 seats – up to 1,000 spectators will be able to enter.

In stadiums and open-air performance complexes:

• In a complex with up to 10,000 seats – up to 75% of the space can be occupied, up to 750 spectators.

• In a complex with over 10,000 seats – up to 1,500 spectators will be able to enter.

The soccer and basketball industries are opposed to the limited increase in the number of fans in the stands. The chairman of the soccer leagues, Erez Halfon, said: “Obviously we are not happy. We’re still hoping that the health ministry will approve our outline of 30% occupancy in the stands at the stadiums.”

Shmuel Frenkel, chairman of the basketball Premier League, tweeted on Thursday: “Netanyahu declared today (in a Fox News interview – DI) that the Corona is behind us, so why was it decided to put 1,000 spectators in a hall of 11,000?”

Nevertheless, Israel’s basketball teams, which have already adopted the previous outline of 300 fans in the stands, are expected to welcome the extended outline (750-1,500 fans).

But the country’s soccer teams, which have rejected the previous outline and currently are not admitting any fans to the stands, may also reject the revised outline (750-1,500 fans) on the grounds of economic insufficiency and logistical inefficiency.


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