Authorities are reportedly expected to shutter Israel’s two largest outdoor markets in the coming days to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda draw large crowds of shoppers, breaching government directives barring gatherings of people.
Shopkeepers at the two outdoor market areas lashed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the move, Channel 12 reported.
The head of the committee that represents sellers at Mahane Yehuda, Tali Fridman, said: “This act means financial ruin for store owners in the market. It’s a hard and thoughtless blow to sellers.”
“The supermarkets on the city streets are much more crowded than the market. There are huge spaces here that allow people to stay two meters apart from each other,” Fridman said. “The government needs to internalize the fact that business owners are on a sure path to economic collapse.”
According to government guidelines, businesses that sell food supplies are allowed to operate, but storeowners must ensure that shoppers stay two meters apart.
The Carmel Market and Mahane Yehuda have stalls that sell groceries and other food products, as well as bars and restaurants, which were shuttered by previous government directives.
Israel has taken far-reaching measures to contain the virus and on Friday the cabinet authorized further stringent workplace restrictions, tightening the limit to just 30 percent of workers in both public and private sectors in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
The Finance Ministry, which announced the decision, said that industries deemed vital to the economy and public well-being would be exempt and noted that all businesses can keep operating as long as they manage to abide by the rules.
The new workplace restrictions come hours after new emergency regulations legalizing tough personal restrictions on movement came into effect Friday, after receiving cabinet approval overnight.
Ministers unanimously approved the measures, which made the limitations on movement announced earlier in the week legally binding and enforceable.
The restrictions dictate that Israelis should stay at home at all times unless for purposes of essential work, stocking up on food, medical issues or a limited number of permitted activities.
Israel recorded its first fatality from the coronavirus on Friday when an 88-year-old man died in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital.
According to the Health Ministry’s latest figures, released Saturday, there have been 883 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel, with 15 people in serious condition.
The ministry also said 19 people were in moderate condition and that the rest had mild symptoms.
A total of 15 people have recovered from COVID-19 and been released to their homes.
Worldwide, there have been at least 256,296 reported coronavirus cases and 11,015 deaths, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli officials had warned recently that the country would likely see its first deaths soon and that cases of illness will climb into the thousands.
The disease generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.