With just hours to go before a second national lockdown coinciding this time with the beginning of the fall holidays, the list of restrictions was published Thursday afternoon — and it is nothing short of confusing, and inconsistent.
And apparently, the list is still not final.
The government is reportedly considering making the lockdown more severe. According to several news reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will consider new restrictions on Monday after Rosh Hashanah. But at the same time he will also consider increasing the distance residents can wander from their home from 500 meters to 1 km. (which is less than 1 mile).
According to the rules, schools are closed for three weeks. But you may travel to attend a circumcision and buy the “species” for the upcoming Sukkot holiday. You can attend a synagogue and go to the beach… but you are not allowed to swim.
All of this is being pushed through to help Israel stem the skyrocketing new coronavirus infections which have hit daily record highs surging past 5,000 on Wednesday with a death toll of 1,163, according to Health Ministry figures.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to reduce the nation’s sense of angst and confusion in an address on Thursday night. He warned he would tighten the lockdown if necessary and called for national cooperation and personal responsibility in the next few weeks. He also said the country will have to “wear masks and avoid gatherings” until a vaccine is available.
“Only together will we defeat corona,” he said.
Less encouraging, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein followed Netanyahu saying a three-week lockdown is “not enough” and to expect additional restrictions after Oct. 11.
The shut down goes into effect at 2 p.m. Israel time on Friday. Malls, shops, gyms and restaurants will all be closed, hotels shuttered. For many businesses, this second shutdown is a death knell for their chances of survival.
“I have no words, I am devoid of optimism,” Susan Aharish, from the Crown Plaza Hotel told Channel 12 news as she waved her hand at the covered sofas and stacked chairs in the lobby. “You see the results — these are the results of the shutdown.”
Aharish described the toughest moment — saying goodbye to the workers and wishing them happy new year as they headed back to unemployment.
“I was wishing them happy new year with heaviness and sadness,” she said. “Everyone thought we were retuning to a regular life, but now we are are uncertain about our futures.”
Since family dinners are off the table during the holidays due to traveling and gathering restrictions, many extended families gathered on Thursday night before the rules went into effect for a holiday meal.
Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis who could not handle another lockdown amassed at the airport to catch some of the last flights out before the shut down.
One traveler said that she decided to get her family out of the country after the government decided to shut down hotels in Israel.
“We had a reservation in Eilat for the holiday, but now that is closed,” she told Channel 12. “It’s such a shame we aren’t putting our money here in the land where businesses are suffering. Instead we are going to spend it overseas. This lockdown is so unjustified.”
Edelstein argued that a stricter lockdown would be necessary to relieve Israel’s overburdened medical system. Many hospitals are operating over their capacity with some 3,500 medical personnel in quarantine and another 1,300 sick with COVID, he said.
Here is a list of restrictions — which have been approved for now.