The Health Ministry on Saturday defined new parameters on which to base its decisions regarding the easing or tightening of restrictions on the public and the economy, amid widespread criticism of a confused decision-making process.
According to Hebrew media reports, any of the following conditions will likely result in increased restrictions, while remaining below these thresholds will promise continued relief:
- Over 300 new sick people per day (numbers have hovered between 200 and 300 in recent days, though they did pass 500 on Wednesday, possibly due to a backlog of tests);
- Over 300 seriously ill patients (currently 130 are in serious condition);
- A doubling of the national number of sick every 10 days or less (currently cases are doubling around every 20 days).
The Health Ministry has previously proposed a set of criteria for declaring individual areas “restricted zones” due to a high number of coronavirus cases there.
Several mainly ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh and Netivot, where there has been a spike in coronavirus infections in recent days, went into lockdown at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. Meanwhile, police on Saturday took down checkpoints at the entrances to the Arab towns of Deir al-Asad and Bi’ina in northern Israel that were put on lockdown due to an outbreak there.
As of Friday, Deir al-Asad, with a rate of 1,142 cases per 100,000 people, had the highest infection rate of any community in Israel with over 5,000 residents. Bi’ina, with 22 cases out of a population of 8,355, had the 11th highest infection rate in the country — 251 per 100,000 people. The majority of towns above Bi’ina on the list were not declared restricted areas.
The determination of measurements that would leas to a snapback of eased restrictions as the government was set to weigh an Education Ministry proposal on Sunday that would gradually reopen the education system and see thousands of preschoolers and elementary school children return to class in the coming weeks.
According to the proposed plan, preschools and kindergartens would reopen on May 3 and children would attend in groups of 15. Each group would attend for half of each week to limit the spread of the virus.
Most stores, hairdressers and beauty salons were allowed to resume operations from midnight Saturday, if hygiene regulations related to the virus are adhered to. In addition, restaurants and food shops are allowed to sell products for takeaway, not just home deliveries, if a physical barrier is placed between the cashier and the customers.
Hundreds of large businesses were set to remain closed, despite approval to reopen, in protest against the government and as they demand compensation for the recent closures and ongoing restrictions.
The number of coronavirus cases in Israel rose to 15,298 Saturday night, an increase of 260 over 24 hours, with fewer than 100 people on ventilators.
A total of 199 people in Israel have died of COVID-19, according to Health Ministry statistics, which also show that no Israelis under age 20 were ever seriously ill with the virus.