Nearly two weeks after the start of a third national lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, Israel has just entered a new, much stricter phase of the shut down which shutters schools and most businesses for a minimum of two weeks.
Police have set up checkpoints throughout the country in order to enforce these rules, travel limits and continued mask and social distancing rules. This is the third national lockdown since March when the coronavirus was first discovered in Israel.
Leaving the country is also prohibited unless tickets were purchased prior to the lockdown.
Health officials have concluded that tighter restrictions are the only solution to bring down soaring rates of positive coronavirus infections which have reached 7% of those tested in recent days. Positive cases have exceeded 8,000 per day a few times last week, and the daily death toll has averaged 30 for the same period.
At the same time, rates of COVID-19 vaccination rates have also been high with some 1.5 million Israelis already receiving their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The first delivery of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Israel on Thursday.
The tightened restrictions went into effect at midnight on Thursday and will last for at least two weeks at which time the Knesset will reconvene to vote on whether to extend the rules or not.
This new phase includes the suspension of classroom instruction for all children except those in special education and strict limits on the numbers of people who can be together in one place, inside or outside. Limits on leaving one’s residence for other reasons are also being tightened. No one is allowed to visit others in their homes and businesses except for essential reasons.
Many restrictions on workplaces, which had been fairly loose during the first phase of this lockdown, are also being significantly tightened. Nearly all indoor businesses except grocery stores, pharmacies and health clinics are being ordered to close and public transportation is also being severely restricted.
Citizens are limited to a 1-kilometer radius from their homes but may go further than that to participate in protests, receive medical treatment (including vaccinations) and seek social work care. Exercise is allowed beyond 1 kilometer as are trips to attend weddings, funerals or circumcisions, but also under strict limits.
The new restrictions and regulations are as follows:
Restricted activity – Restriction of exceptions to the prohibition on leaving one's place of residence:
1. Restriction of gatherings to up to five people in a closed area and up to ten people in an open area (with exceptions for weddings, circumcisions and funerals, that will remain according to the existing rule – 10 people in a closed space and 20 in an open space).
2. Restriction of permission to fly from Israel to those who purchased flight tickets starting from the taking effect of the regulations, except for reasons detailed in the regulations or with approval from the Transportation Ministry Director General.
3. Restriction of professional sports activity so that venues for training for premier league games may not be operated except for training only.
4. Cancellation of permission to leave a residence for activity to counter isolation for senior citizens (except for essential social work activity).
1. There is a prohibition on opening educational institutions to learners and employees except for special education and exceptions determined by law.
2. Closed boarding institutions for up to 30 days without the possibility of readmitting pupils who have left the institution.
1. Employees may not enter their places of work except for places of work for which exceptions have been made including those that provide essential and vital services and those engaged in construction or infrastructure work.
2. All employers shall be entitled to allow employees to go to their place work if their presence is necessary for its maintenance or continued functioning. This includes necessary repairs, security, deliveries, payment of wages, etc. Specific instructions were determined for enterprises with special permission to employ workers during hours of rest, security industries, government ministries, local councils, religious councils and institutions of higher education.
3. Lawyers have been added to the list of essential places of work under the regulations in instances where they are representing or preparing to represent clients in court or in other institutions, or are providing essential services to clients that will not admit delay and cannot be performed digitally. Included in the foregoing are employees of the Central Elections Committee and regional elections committees who are working on the upcoming Knesset elections.
4. Employers who meet the various conditions and continue to operate will do so under the purple badge standard.
* A list of work sectors for which exceptions have been made will be published on the Finance Ministry website.
Occupancy on public transportation will be reduced to 50% of capacity (including on buses)
Participation in political party primary elections
1. Person voting in political party primary elections may leave their residences to do so. The foregoing includes candidates and service providers on behalf of candidates or parties, in order to prepare for Knesset and political party primary elections.
2. Polling places for political party primary elections may be operated.
3. People entering polling place locations will not be asked about the existence of symptoms that do not require quarantine so as not to impair their right to vote because of these symptoms. There will be no questioning of those arriving at designated polling places for people under quarantine.
Reminder of currently existing restrictions that are also valid during the aforementioned 14-day lockdown:
1. Restrictions on going out from one's place of residence beyond 1,000 meters, apart from exceptions such as going out to be vaccinated, receive medical treatment or social work care, attend a demonstration or legal proceeding, do individual exercise (without use of a vehicle), transferring a minor between separated parents, going to a permitted place of work or to permitted educational activity, or going out to attend a funeral, wedding or circumcision (subject to the restrictions on gatherings).
Fine for violation: NIS 500. ($150)
2. A prohibition on leaving one's place of residence in order to be present in another person's place of residence.
3. Closure of public and commercial places except for essential stores: Food, hygiene, optical, pharmacies, and electric products and products that are necessary for essential home repairs.
4. Closure of guest units and b&b's, zoos, safari parks and nature reserves, national parks, national and commemorative sites, places for giving non-medical treatment including beauty and cosmetics treatment, places for giving complementary medical treatment, drive-in cinemas, malls, markets and museums. The option of opening an eating establishment for pick-up service is cancelled.
5. Practical driving lessons are cancelled; organizing – or participating in – an organized hike is prohibited.
6. Take-away service is prohibited; delivery service is permitted.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.