Thousands of people visited the country’s beaches Saturday as the country sweltered in a heatwave, despite continued restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The crowds hit the beaches for a second successive day, following a rush on Friday. Israel has gradually eased restrictions on outdoor activities, but beaches are only formally supposed to be open in a few days’ time.
On some Tel Aviv area beaches, bathers were ordered out of the water via announcements on loudspeakers, and told that they were breaching the regulations.
The Haaretz daily reported that some beaches had lifeguards, despite the fact that the sea is only set to be opened to bathers on Wednesday after a nearly two-month shuttering due to the coronavirus.
A resident named Tamir told the newspaper that he had witnessed some police involvement in the situation, but in his opinion they had made the situation worse.
“It’s strange — you can sit on the boardwalk but not the sand. It’s delusional. There were inspectors and they told us we couldn’t sit on the sand and that made us huddle up and overcrowd the promenade. They only asked that we wear masks,” he said.
Another beachgoer named Avigail told the Ynet news site that there were inspectors from the municipality on the beach in Tel Aviv, but they didn’t seem to be enforcing regulations, adding that in her opinion, the regulations didn’t make sense.
“If we are two meters from everyone, then what is the problem? There are a lot of people and everyone will keep to the rules and everything will be great. I’m having a great time. This is the first time back to the sea and I can breathe again,” she said.
In addition, with restaurants and bars remaining shut, revelers jammed into the city’s plazas, boulevards and parks, with little to no enforcement of social distancing regulations by police.
פורמלית חיי הלילה בתל אביב מתים לעת הזו, אבל בתכלס מאז הסרת ההגבלות הם פשוט עברו לכיכרות ולשדרות עם חבורות וזוגות שיוצאים לשבת בחוץ. מזל ששיפצו את כיכר דיזנגוף pic.twitter.com/MzeZo7Eb0H
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) May 14, 2020
The Ynet news site said Saturday that at least one restaurant in Tel Aviv set up tables on the sidewalk for customers to eat takeaway food, pointing to the problems caused by regulations that permit them to eat on an adjacent bench but not a table supplied by the eatery.
Under current regulations, restaurants are allowed to prepare food for delivery and takeaway, but customers are not allowed to eat on the premises, leaving many restaurants struggling to survive.
Susu and Sons owner Omer Miler said he had not made the decision lightly: “I am ready to pay a fine because I know I am breaking the law.”
אומנם מנוגד לחוק אבל אבסורד: לקחת אוכל לספסלים מימין- מותר, לקחת אוכל ולשבת על השולחנות מעבר לקו (בתחום המסעדה) משמאל- אסור. הבעלים עומר מילר: "מוכן לקבל קנס כי אני יודע שאני מפר את החוק". @ynetalerts pic.twitter.com/yU9WFHJqK7
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) May 16, 2020
Temperatures were expected to rise and potentially reach 46°C (114.8°F) in some parts of Israel in the coming days.
The Health Ministry has issued a warning to the elderly and people with preexisting health conditions, instructing them to stay indoors, avoid unnecessary physical exertion and drink plenty of fluids as temperatures rise.
Temperatures could reach up to 41°C (105°F) in Afula and Beersheba, 43°C (109°F) in Beit She’an, 36-37°C (96.8°F) in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and 34°C (93.2°F) in Safed.
The high temperatures are expected to persist into next week, with Bet She’an potentially reaching up to 46°C (114.8°F) and Tiberias 45°C (113°F) by Tuesday.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel increased by 17 in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed Saturday morning, after over a week of under 50 daily infections.
One new death was recorded since Friday morning, bringing the nation’s toll to 267.
The total number of cases was 16,606. Of them, 12,820 have recovered from COVID-19, meaning the number of active cases was down to 3,519.
Of those ill with the virus, 59 were in serious condition, 49 of them on ventilators. Another 41 were in moderate condition with the rest displaying mild symptoms, the ministry said.
Amid the sustained drop in infections, the government has increasingly rolled back restrictions meant to curb the outbreak, opening some schools and allowing many businesses to reopen. More such measures are reportedly in the works.
Authorities were bracing for a possible second wave of infections after thousands of ultra-Orthodox men gathered Monday night and Tuesday in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Mount Meron to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday in violation of guidelines.
Hundreds also gathered at a funeral Tuesday for an IDF soldier killed during a West Bank raid.
Violations have been reported across the country, including passengers crowded on a domestic flight to Eilat.