JERUSALEM — Come Sunday, nursery schools and kindergartens will reopen along with small businesses that do not receive the public, national parks, beaches and the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Temple Mount.
Ben-Gurion Airport will also reopen to Israelis traveling as of Thursday night.
The government’s coronavirus cabinet voted to begin rolling back some of the severe restrictions put into place a month ago in order to control an out-of-control spread of COVID-19 here.
The rate of infections has indeed been dropping as has the number of serious cases which dipped below 800 for the first time in weeks. The Ministry of Health reported only 2,009 infections on Wednesday, 720 patients in serious condition, including 248 on ventilators and a death toll of 2,121.
But conditions of continuing the rollback hinge on the infection rate staying below a certain threshold and the public should not see this as a “a victory party,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein adding that the exit would be gradual and could be stopped at any time.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that Israel’s second national lockdown is being followed closely by other countries, especially in Europe, that are seeing a rise in infections again.
“As of now, the lockdown has been a major success. We are seeing a decline in all data, a clear and consistent decline,” he said. But he also warned the rollback would be strictly adhered to while they keep an eye on the numbers.
At the same time, business owners devastated by the lockdown staged an angry protest in Tel Aviv, burning their merchandise in the streets. Opposition leaders took the opportunity to blast the government’s handling of the crisis.
“The second lockdown is not a ‘success,’ but rather a result of the administrative failure of your government,” Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett said.
The cabinet pushed off a vote until Saturday night on whether to keep “red” cities – those that still have a high infection rate – under lockdown. About a dozen cities are under consideration, most of them ultra-Orthodox Jews who comprise 36 percent of all infections.