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No more 100-meter limit; malls, libraries to reopen: All the eased regulations

Loosened virus restrictions lift distance cap on traveling from home; allow swimming for exercise at the beach; and visits to national parks, nature reserves and heritage sites

Israelis at the Mamilla Mall near Jerusalem's Old City on May 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israelis at the Mamilla Mall near Jerusalem's Old City on May 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Cabinet ministers on Monday approved a series of measures to ease restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, among them lifting the 100-meter limit on travel from home for nonessential activities.

A number of changes to the emergency ordinances were effective immediately, such as the reopening of some businesses, while others will not come into force until later in the week.

The government also signed off on directives that certain businesses must adhere to in order to operate, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioning Monday night that should infection rates exceed certain caps, the lockdown measures could snap back.

At the same time, ministers authorized an extension of a controversial program allowing the Shin Bet security service to use sensitive personal data to track coronavirus carriers and also extended a nighttime curfew for Ramadan in Muslim-majority communities until May 10.

Here are the details of the new loosened restrictions:

Effective immediately, libraries, hotels, guesthouses, nature reserves, heritage sites, national parks and zoos can reopen, as can businesses specializing in non-medical treatments or complementary medicine.

Libraries must put up a divider at the checkout counter and set aside newly returned books for three days. Businesses that offer non-medical physical treatments must limit the number of customers to one per every 15 square meters, or two per cash register.

Swimming pools for competitive athletes and hydrotherapy may also reopen.

Malls, outdoor markets and gyms will be allowed to reopen Thursday, though the former two must limit the number of shoppers allowed to enter to one person for every 20 square meters and work 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 onsite.

While beaches will remain closed to visitors, water sports there are now allowed.

Israelis at the beach in Tel Aviv on May 1, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The 500 meter-limit that Israelis may travel from their homes or workplaces to prayer was lifted, though the 19-person limit on group prayer in open areas remains in effect.

The limit on the number of people who can attend a circumcision was raised from 10 to 19.

Effectively immediately, other gatherings of up to 20 people are 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.

Netanyahu said Monday that a cancellation of all limitations on gatherings was planned for June 14, “assuming that no red light is lit.”

Additionally, mental health professionals can now meet with their patients without masks if they maintain a distance of three meters from each other. Buildings with over five floors may have up to half of the maximum occupancy in elevators, up from just two people.

With some grades returning to school this week, Netanyahu said kindergartens would reopen on May 10, while all students will return to classes by the end of the month. However, he did not give a time-frame for the resumption of activities in daycare centers.

Universities and colleges are set to reopen on June 14.

As for international flights, Netanyahu said Israel was seeking a way to “reconnect to the world,” but without exposing the country to contagion from those countries that were still grappling with far higher infection rates.

Full text of the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry

The Cabinet, last night (Monday, 4 May 2020), approved a series of additional amendments to the emergency regulations that will allow the economy to return to activity in the shadow of the coronavirus. The amendments cancel restrictions on leaving one’s home except to places and activities that are prohibited in the regulations.

Following are the main points of “Emergency Regulations (New Coronavirus – Restriction of Activity)”:

* From yesterday (4 May 2020), additional businesses and activities will be allowed to open including: Libraries, all kinds of non-medical treatment on the human body, complementary medicine, hotels and guest houses, nature reserves, heritage sites, national parks, zoos and safaris. Activity at swimming pools will be permitted for competitive athletes and therapy.

* Malls, open-air markets and gyms will be allowed to open on 7 May 2020.

Mall operators will be required to meet the rules for maintaining public health and will sign an on-line form to this effect on the Economy and Industry Ministry website; the form will be passed on to the relevant local authority. Under these rules, an employee will be appointed responsible for carrying out activity to maintain public health at the mall. The entry of people to the mall – including mall employees – will be regulated so that at no time will there be more than one person per 20 square meters in the mall. A sign will be posted regarding the number of people permitted in the mall. Strict care will be taken to maintain two meters’ distance between people in the mall including in lines. Places for those waiting in line will be delineated; signs will be posted about maintaining distance. The rules of hygiene – including disinfection of surfaces – will be strictly maintained. Accessible stands with hand disinfectant will be placed in the mall. Sitting for the purpose of eating will not be permitted in the mall.

Retail markets will be allowed to open upon receiving a permit from the local authority and pursuant to the following conditions: The local authority will regulate the entry of people to the market, including workers and business owners, so that at no time will there be more than one person in the open area per 20 square meters of space. The local authority will set and implement a mechanism to limit the number of people in the market. A sign will be posted regarding the number of people permitted in the market. The local authority will take maximum care vis-à-vis maintaining two meters’ distance between people in the market including in lines, in order to prevent crowding. Places for those waiting in line will be delineated; signs will be posted about maintaining distance. The rules of hygiene – including disinfection of surfaces – will be strictly maintained. Accessible stands with hand disinfectant will be placed in the market. The authority will not allow sitting for the purpose of eating in the market will not permit the entry of people not wearing masks to the market.

* Those operating libraries will be required to observe additional conditions including the placing of partitions at the borrowing desk to prevent the transfer of respiratory droplets and the separation of books that have been returned to the library for three days.

* Those operating stores and businesses for non-medical treatment will be allowed to bring in customers according to the ratio of one customer per 15 square meters of space open to customers, or two people per cash register, whichever is higher.

* Going to beaches is prohibited except for sport activity in the sea.

* The restriction on praying more than 500 meters from the home or workplace is cancelled; the restriction of no more than 19 people for prayers in an open space remains in force.

* Circumcisions may be held with up to 19 people (as opposed to ten) in attendance.

* In public places and at workplaces, buildings of more than five stories may have up to 50% of the maximum allowed occupancy in elevators, thus allowing more than two people in any given elevator.

* Mental health treatment is allowed without masks, provided a distance of three meters is maintained between care provider and care recipient.

* Alongside the existing restrictions on activity at mikvaot [plural] (up to three men at mikvaot for men and advance appointments at mikvaot for women), a person appointed by the operator will be responsible to see that the rules are maintained.

* Regarding restrictions in Muslim-majority communities, the emergency regulation barring stores and businesses from opening between 19:30 and 03:00 is extended until Sunday, 10 May 2020.

The foregoing amendments shall be valid until Monday, 18 May 2020.

Emergency Regulations (Restricted Zones):

The Cabinet approved extension of “Emergency Regulations (Restricted Zones)” until Tuesday, 2 June 2020. The relevant ministerial committee will be able to declare communities, or sections of communities, in which there have been coronavirus outbreaks, to be restricted zones.

Extension of the authorization of the Israel Security Agency (ISA) to assist in the national effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and the advancement of legislation:

The Cabinet decided to extend the validity of the authorization of the ISA to assist in the national effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus until Tuesday, 16 June 2020, or until completion of the legislative process and the entry into effect of the legislation. The decision will be submitted to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for approval.

The Health Ministry calls on the public to continue listening to the directives on physical distancing, wearing masks and maintaining hygiene, in order to ensure public health and continue the common struggle against the spread of the coronavirus.

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