search

Health Ministry reportedly threatening to fine IKEA if it reopens Wednesday

Furniture chain argues it sells home maintenance products and is therefore an essential business, vows to open despite threat, TV report says

Israelis wait outside the IKEA branch in Netanya, after the company opened some of its branches in Israel, on April 26, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Israelis wait outside the IKEA branch in Netanya, after the company opened some of its branches in Israel, on April 26, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry is reportedly threatening to fine IKEA if it reopens Wednesday, arguing that the local branches of the Swedish furniture chain are not essential businesses.

Despite current coronavirus lockdown measures barring malls and shopping centers from opening, IKEA argued it was an essential business because it sells home maintenance products and was therefore allowed to reopen, according to a Channel 12 news report Tuesday.

The Health Ministry rejected that argument, saying IKEA’s primary business is selling furniture and not home maintenance. It also warned police will fine the chain if its stores in Israel reopen, the TV report said.

“The essential departments at IKEA will open tomorrow to the general public. We would like to stress that only a quarter of the store will open,” the chain was quoted as saying in response.

It also asserted that it was legally permitted to open stores in their entirety, but said it would keep the restaurants and children’s play areas closed.

During the initial lockdown in the spring, IKEA was allowed to reopen while most stores remained closed, fueling anger from small business owners.

Malls remain closed, but smaller street stores were permitted to open on Sunday, with some restrictions. The stores had been closed since mid-September, when Israel introduced a nationwide lockdown that excluded only essential businesses. Reopening street stores was opposed by the Health Ministry, due to the level of infections.

The national lockdown that began on September 18 paralyzed much of public life and the economy and shuttered the entire education system. The government began removing some restrictions a few weeks ago, opening preschools and kindergartens, then grades 1-4. The rest of the education system has continued with remote learning.

The third stage in lifting the lockdown was supposed to include the opening of shopping malls, as well as the wider retail market. In addition, school was to be restarted for grades 11-12 to enable students to prepare for matriculation exams.

A drop in the number of new daily cases, achieved during the national lockdown, has recently leveled off amid the gradual reopening, leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and health officials to warn that if the numbers begin to climb there will be no further easing of restrictions.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed