Malls, outdoor markets and gyms reopened Thursday morning after over six weeks of closure, as Israel’s numbers of daily new cases of the novel coronavirus remained in the low dozens.
In Jerusalem, patrons lined up early Thursday outside the Mahane Yehuda market, where guards checked their temperature before allowing them to enter, and made sure the market was not overcrowded.
“Keep to the guidelines in order to ensure that we can continue working in the market and that the shop owners will be able to sell and make their living,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion urged shoppers.
Photographs showed the mayor in an early-morning toast with those present.
“This is a day of celebration for Mahane Yehuda,” said Tali Friedman, a union representative for the shop owners, according to the Walla news site. “The market is open and we hope it remains open [even] if the infection numbers rise in Israel, that we won’t be shut down.”
Pini Tzidkiyahu, who runs a fruit store in the market, told Army Radio: “We will protect the public’s health. The fruit is only in boxes, everyone is wearing gloves and everyone who needs a mask gets one.”
In Tel Aviv, the Carmel and Levinsky markets reopened Thursday morning, along with several other open-air markets in Haifa and Beersheba.
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) May 7, 2020
Thursday’s openings were announced on Monday as part of a raft of eased coronavirus restrictions announced on Monday, most of which have already taken effect.
ככה נראה ריחוק חברתי במחנה יהודה pic.twitter.com/wLINIUpzeV
— ShiraHN שירה הדס נקר (@Shira_HN) May 7, 2020
Shoppers were also reported to arrive at shopping malls throughout the country.
הכניסה לזארה הבוקר. קניון אביב.????♀️ pic.twitter.com/uXrgcbx1Op
— ליהיא (@Bresler111) May 7, 2020
Malls and outdoor markets have been shut since mid-March as part of a series of sweeping measures put in place by Israel to attempt to contain the virus, though they came at the expense of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Shopping malls and markets will face various restrictions, including limiting the number of shoppers allowed to enter shops to one person for every 20 square meters and working to ensure a distance of two meters between customers.
They will also be required to put up signs listing the maximum number of people allowed on the premises, and must not allow customers to consume food on site. Places for those waiting in line must be delineated, with signs posted about maintaining distance. Accessible stands with hand disinfectant must be placed in various areas around the premises.
The Dizengoff Center mall in Tel Aviv, for example, was set to cap shoppers at 3,500 and set out 60 hand sanitizer stands, according to the Ynet news site.
Access to outdoor markets will only be granted to those wearing a face mask.
Gyms and fitness studios were allowed to reopen but were limited to one person per 10 square meters and required stringent hygiene practices.
The measures were approved and announced on Monday as part of a dramatic easing of the social distancing restrictions and limitations on movement and economic activity.
“We achieved major success” in containing the virus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a press conference at his office in Jerusalem on Tuesday, citing the declining rate of new infections and the fast-growing number of people to recover from COVID-19.
However, authorities warned that restrictions could be quickly snapped back in place if cases outside of known hotspots spike or other metrics are exceeded, amid worries about a possible second wave of infections.
Netanyahu said a cancellation of all limitations on gatherings was planned for June 14, “assuming that no red light goes on.”
Among the restrictions that have already been lifted is the 100-meter limit on travel from home for activities deemed nonessential. Visits to immediate family members were permitted, including with grandparents, although social distancing should be maintained on visits to elderly relatives, with no hugs or kisses.
Gatherings of up to 20 people were allowed in open areas, to be expanded to up 50 people on May 17. Weddings and funerals can now have up to 50 people if they are held in open areas.
With some grades having returned to school this week, kindergartens and daycares are set to reopen on Sunday, while all students will return to classes by the end of the month. Universities and colleges are set to reopen on June 14.
Restrictions were also set to be eased on sports and leisure, with Netanyahu saying guidelines would soon be published for the reopening of parks, hotels, guesthouses and other venues. Soccer matches were set to resume May 30, according to a Thursday announcement.
Infection rates have dropped off significantly in recent days, with the number of new cases over 24-hour periods consistently falling below 100 since the start of the week.
Israel’s death toll from the virus stands at 239, with one new death over the last day.