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After over two years, ministers agree to end COVID-19 state of emergency

Starting March 1, any new restrictions put forth by the government must be approved by the Knesset plenum or the Law and Justice Committee

Israelis wear protective face masks in Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv, on September 13, 2021 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israelis wear protective face masks in Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv, on September 13, 2021 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Ministers on Wednesday approved Israel’s transition to a “special health situation” on March 1, ending the over two-year-long pandemic-induced national state of emergency.

The decision comes as Israel has seen its COVID-19 caseload drop in recent weeks.

Under the state of emergency, new restrictions can be instituted by the cabinet before the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approves them.

However, in a “special health situation,” according to the so-called “coronavirus law” passed last month, restrictions will only come into place after the committee votes to approve them, and they must be brought before the panel five days before the government wants them to come into effect. The committee or the Knesset plenum will also be able to amend or outright cancel the restrictions brought before them.

If the cabinet wishes to reinstate a state of emergency, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee or the entire plenum must approve the move within seven days. If neither does so, the validity of the government’s declaration expires.

“In view of the morbidity trends and the easing of restrictions, set by the government, and in light of the government’s justified approach and establishment of a routine of life alongside the pandemic, I appeal to you to declare a special state of health, which will bring an end to the state of emergency that has lasted since 2020,” the chairman of the the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Gilad Kariv, wrote to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv chairs a meeting of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on July 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the letter, Kariv said: “The transition to a ‘special health situation’ will leave the government with the necessary tools to deal with the pandemic in its current form, while restoring the normal relationship between the executive and the legislature, and while conveying an empowering message a return and continuation of normalcy in the State of Israel.”

“According to the provisions of the law, the transition to a ‘special health situation’ will enable the formulation of government policy for longer periods than in an emergency state, which will add to the existence of a clear and stable life routine for Israeli citizens,” he added.

According to statistics released Wednesday by the Health Ministry, there were 111,332 active COVID cases in the country, with 1,459 of them hospitalized, 673 of those in serious condition and 244 of them on ventilators. The death toll stood at 10,075.

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