As virus cases rise, market stall owners rage they aren’t allowed to open

Some open illegally in protest, saying they need to feed their families; 815 new virus cases reported as testing levels increase

Local shop owners open their stands at the Carmel Market in protest against the ongoing closure of the market, Tel Aviv, November 17, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Local shop owners open their stands at the Carmel Market in protest against the ongoing closure of the market, Tel Aviv, November 17, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 815 new virus cases were diagnosed a day earlier.

The number of tests climbed again, with 55,202 tests carried out on Tuesday and 1.5 percent of them returning a positive result.

The ministry said there were 8,310 confirmed active coronavirus cases in Israel, with the tally since the start of the pandemic reaching 325,862.

Of the active cases, 309 were in serious condition, including 132 on ventilators, and 76 patients in moderate condition. There were 513 patients hospitalized nationwide for treatment for COVID-19.

Hospital team members move patients to the new coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on November16, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The death toll stood at 2,735.

The new figures came as stall owners at the nation’s two main markets — Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda and Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market — expressed outrage that they had to remain shut while shoppers packed strip malls across the country on Tuesday as they reopened after months of closure.

Mahane Yehuda is known as a stronghold of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and a location for campaign appearances by the premier ahead of elections.

Uzi Sharabi, owner of a baked goods stall in the Jerusalem market, told Channel 12 news of the difficult position he was in, and maintained he should be permitted to operate his store.

“In the first closure, I was closed for a month and a half… I promised myself that I would not close anymore. I am vital,” Sharabi said.

People wearing face masks as they take cover from the rain at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on November 05, 2020 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Fuming that open-air shopping centers are allowed to reopen but not open-air markets, stall owners at Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market reopened illegally in protest. Some of them were fined by municipal officials.

“Why can’t we work? How long can we stay at home?” said one owner, holding back tears. “It’s not the money, the money can go to hell, we’re going crazy at home. I’ve put my store up for sale because I want to leave. I have no strength left.”

Israelis shop at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, November 17, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Rina Salamon, who works at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, angrily questioned why stores were allowed to open on neighboring Allenby Street but were not permitted to open in the open-air market.

“Why is everyone working on Allenby? Why do we have to be closed? We also have to bring food home,” she told Channel 12.

Meanwhile, long lines and dense crowds formed outside stores in shopping centers in “green” zones on Tuesday as people waited to enter strip mall stores, which are required to limit the number of customers inside. In many cases, customers did not adhere to social distancing rules, requiring police officers to step in.

Some of the stores closed down after owners concluded it was impossible to maintain distancing guidelines issued by the government.

People shop at Bilu shopping center in Kiryat Ekron, November 17, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Health Ministry officials are deeply frustrated by the new steps easing the restrictions, Channel 12 reported, and are warning that a surge in infections will force their reversal within two or three weeks.

Officials also decried the fact that, contrary to plans, the government was not waiting two weeks between phases of reopening to ensure that certain steps weren’t causing infections to spike.

Unnamed sources told Channel 12 that although the number of people infected with the virus was not currently worryingly high, there were concerns that further easing of restrictions could lead to a loss of control over the outbreak.

Health Ministry officials have reportedly expressed outrage that restrictions are being eased even as the basic reproduction rate — the average number of people each virus carrier infects — has topped 1.0, when 0.8 had been defined as the threshold beyond which restrictions would stop being eased.

On Wednesday morning, Israel’s reproduction rate stood at a worrying 1.09, according to the Health Ministry, a slight increase from a day earlier.

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