Photo Credit: Flash90
Shoppers outside the Ikea branch in Netanya, April 23, 2020.

The easing of the economic restrictions went into effect at midnight and allow, starting Sunday, among other things, open street shops and open strip malls. Hairdressers and beauty salons will also be opened, provided that they follow the Health Ministry’s guidelines: take the temperature of the client, register his or her name, ID number and phone number, and make sure they wear a face mask. Also: it’s OK once again to drive up to a restaurant to pick up your takeaway.

The government is expected to discuss on Sunday the gradual return of students to the education system, and more relief after the Independence Day celebrations Tuesday night and Wednesday this week.

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At the same time, several neighborhoods and blocks in Netivot and Beit Shemesh were placed under closure for five days starting Sunday morning, due to their unusually high rates of infection. The closure started Sunday at 6 AM and will end Friday, May 1, at 6 AM. During this time, the Defense Ministry, through the Home Front Command, will assist in providing food and subsistence services to the population in these restricted areas.

Acting Police Chief, Superintendent Moti Cohen, is expected to order a “lenient enforcement” of the new regulations, to give police and civilians time to adapt. Among other things, the new rules require everyone to wear a face mask in public spaces, even if they are alone, except for sporting activities.

As far as the government is concerned, the looser rules will remain in place so long as there are not more than 300 newly infected patients around the country in one day. Local communities with 100 new infections will be closed down, as will areas with 200 or more new patients. Another reason to take back the relaxation of the rules: up to 300 patients in serious condition and/or doubling the number of new patients every ten days.

So far, after five Corona patients passed away on the night between Saturday and Sunday, the number of deaths from the disease in Israel has reached 199. 240 new patients were added, compared with 432 who recovered as of Sunday morning, the ninth consecutive day of more recoveries than new patients. The number of critical patients dropped to 127 (10 were removed from the list between Saturday and Sunday), of whom 99 were on artificial respirators (3 fewer than on Saturday).

A Lubavitcher chassid helps an Israeli wearing a face masks put on tefillin at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, April 24, 2020. / Nati Shohat/Flash90

After lengthy debates between senior finance and health officials, the government on Saturday night approved the opening of street shops, including toys and footwear, hairdressers, beauty salons and cosmetics, currency exchanges, car wash facilities, car dealerships, lottery booths (Mifal Hapayis), and nurseries, as well as all open-air strip malls.

Enclosed shopping malls, however, will remain shut.

It was also decided that the limit on personal space will remain at 500 meters from one’s home. Which means if you tell the cop who stopped you that you’re out shopping, you can go wherever you want, but if you say you just went out for air, you must stay within 500 meters of your home. Conclusion: less fresh air, more shopping.

Starting Sunday, police and local municipality inspectors will start issuing 200 shekel (roughly $65) fines to civilians caught without a mask on their faces in the public space. This includes children 7 years of age and up, so, kids, time to push for a bigger allowance.

Later on Sunday, the special ministerial committee on the coronavirus will debate the Education Ministry’s plan to gradually resume school starting next Sunday, May 3. According to this outline, kindergartens and students in grades one through three will be divided into two alternating groups of children, each studying three days a week.

The government will also look at reducing the quarantine hours in Arab communities during the holy months Ramadan which started this weekend. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri promised this to MK Ahmed Tibi from the Joint Arab List Saturday night. But there will be a nightly curfew in Arab communities for Ramadan, from 6 PM to 3 AM, to prevent crowds.

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