Lockdown Restrictions Slowly Ease in Israel as Officials Fear Second Outbreak
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JERUSALEM, Israel – Israelis are venturing out of their homes for the first time in weeks after the Cabinet approved a gradual rollback of coronavirus restrictions on Sunday night.
According to the new guidelines, Israelis are allowed to move 500 meters away from their homes for sports or prayer. For weeks, Israelis were prohibited from traveling more than 100 meters away from their homes, and only for essential trips like to the grocery store and the doctor’s office.
People are still mandated to wear masks in public and anyone caught more than once without a face covering will be forced to pay a fine.
Participation in outdoor exercise and sports activities is confined to up to two people from the same household.
Meanwhile, parks, beaches, municipal sporting facilities, and playgrounds remain closed.
Outdoor prayer groups are limited to 19 people standing two meters apart.
Schools across the country are still shuttered but special education programs are allowed to operate for groups of up to three children.
These guidelines will remain in place until May 3.
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Visiting others in their homes is still prohibited, but businesses are allowed to slightly increase the number of employees allowed to come to work so long as they follow hygiene rules.
These new rules come after Israel’s Finance Ministry warned the economy will not be able to recover if Israelis remain shuttered indoors for much longer.
Israel’s Channel 13 News reports that Health Ministers believe the country has not done enough to establish wide-scale testing and monitoring of the population to prevent a second outbreak of COVID-19.
Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin warned during cabinet deliberations that the gradual easing of restrictions could lead to a second outbreak in just 3-4 weeks, which would result in a return to lockdown.
However, Channel 12 News reported that some leaders blame the Health Ministry for not setting up adequate testing and monitoring.
The report said a key military leader who had been brought in to oversee the establishment of a national testing and monitoring infrastructure alongside the Health Ministry had resigned from his position citing “ego games” from the ministry.
Israel’s National Security Council, which is responsible for creating a lockdown exit strategy for the country, says its plan depends on the results of widespread COVID-19 testing of at least 10,000 per day.
But Israel has struggled to consistently test 10,000 people every day and the number of new cases continues to rise.
As of Monday morning, more than 13,000 Israelis have been diagnosed with the virus, more than 170 have died, and about 3,700 people have recovered.
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