Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet voted Monday to close the country’s clubs, bars, gyms, swimming pools and event halls – effective immediately – in hopes of containing the novel coronavirus pandemic that has continued to spread in a second wave throughout the country.
Synagogue attendance will be limited to 19 attendees, as proposed by Interior Minister Arye Deri. Yeshivas are not affected thus far, and neither are the day camps that are operating at Israeli public schools, up to grade four.
Public buses will also be capped at 20 riders, with open windows and no air conditioning, because there is a question over whether the virus is conveyed through the system.
For the time being, restaurants and public beaches will be able to remain open.
“The pandemic is spreading; it is as clear as the sun,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the Coronavirus Cabinet meeting.
“It is rising sharply on a daily basis and is dragging along – contrary to what we have been told – severe cases in its wake.
“Today, there are around 90 severe cases and the number is doubling every four days. If we do not act now, we will have hundreds, and perhaps over 1,000, severe cases in the coming weeks, which will paralyze our systems. Therefore, we must take immediate steps that will prevent us from having to take even more extreme measures later,” he warned.
“We are one step away from a total closure,” National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat added.
The Cabinet decided unanimously on the following restrictions in accordance with the recommendations of the Health Ministry. (They still require Knesset approval.)
* The closure of event halls, clubs and bars.
* Restaurants – No more than 20 people in a closed space and no more than 30 in an open area at widely spaced tables
* Gyms and public swimming pools are to be closed.
* Cultural shows are to be closed.
* Hotels and tourism – Clubs and bars on hotel grounds shall not operate. Restaurants and dining halls may have no more than 20 people in a closed space.
[The following require orders by the Health Ministry Director General; the Health Ministry will issue an update on the precise time the decisions take effect:]
* Houses of worship – No more than 19 people.
* Other gatherings – Up to 20 participants, with 2 meters’ distance between people and the wearing of masks.
* Organized sports to be permitted without spectators (No change from the existing situation).
* Summer schools, camps and youth activities – To be allowed only for toddlers and children up to the 4th grade. The Cabinet authorizes the Health Ministry Director General to decide regarding educational activities for the 5th grade and up in consultation with the Higher Education Minister.
* Buses – Up to 20 people per bus. The Cabinet authorizes the Minister of Transportation to decide on another number with the agreement of the Health Minister and the head of the National Security Council (to take effect immediately).
* Work in government ministries and companies – At least 30% of work from home, according to rules to be determined by the Civil Service Commissioner.
All of the decisions made by the Coronavirus Cabinet must still be approved within seven days by the Knesset Coronavirus Committee, with a possible extension of three more days if necessary.
However, the government approved a draft law amending and validating emergency regulations so the restrictions decided by the government can be put into effect immediately.
As long as the relevant committee does not approve the Cabinet decision within the allotted time, the decisions will be submitted to the Knesset plenum for approval as soon as possible.
Alongside the Knesset approval process, the decisions will take effect and be implemented immediately upon approval by the Cabinet. If the committee or the Knesset plenum decides not to approve the order in question or if no decision is made within the allotted time, the validity of the order will expire.