Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov said Tuesday that if the coming weeks bring a drop in new coronavirus cases from hundreds to dozens a day, the government will be able to move forward with plans to gradually ease the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“If this happens, we’ll have the leeway to take steps that carry a bit of risk,” such as increasing the workforce allowed to work outside the home from 15 to 30 percent and permitting people to once again venture out more than 100 meters from their homes, he told Channel 12.
He specified that industrial workers would return to work first, followed by employees in high-tech.
“Later, we’ll return shops and restaurant, of course with restrictions preventing crowding in those places, and only then will we be able to return schools and daycare to full capacity,” Bar Siman-Tov explained.
“We’ll see whether returning to a routine does not pose a risk and [if it doesn’t] we will lift restrictions further,” he added.
With regards to the education system, Bar Siman-Tov said the various government offices are currently weighing a staggered return to schools that will begin with special education programs, followed by elementary and high schools.
The last to return to full capacity would be the cultural events and international flights from Israel, he predicted.
“Israel is in a much better place than more or less all advanced countries we compare ourselves to,” Bar Siman-Tov said.
On Tuesday evening, the Health Ministry updated the country’s death toll from the coronavirus to 65, adding five more people, including Israel’s youngest victim — a 37-year-old man — to the morning’s tally.
According to the ministry, 9,248 people were sick with the virus, 242 more than in the morning. Additionally, 149 patients were in serious condition, including 117 on ventilators. Another 189 people were in moderate condition and 770 had recovered — almost 100 more than in the previous tally — with the remaining patients showing mild symptoms.
Almost all of those who have died from the disease in Israel have been elderly and suffered from preexisting conditions, according to hospital officials.
Experts are also pointing to the relatively slow rise in the number of patients on ventilators as a source of potential encouragement.
Putting a dent in the optimism, health officials are projecting that Israel will fall short of testing 10,000 people a day for the novel coronavirus in the immediate term because of a shortage of a key reagent. On Tuesday, the number of tests conducted, according to Channel 12, was under 2,000.
A national lockdown came into effect Tuesday ahead of the Passover holiday. A full closure will be in effect over the first night of the holiday on Wednesday, to prevent further spread of the virus.