Sea of Galilee beaches hit maximum capacity under virus rules as heatwave breaks
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Sea of Galilee beaches hit maximum capacity under virus rules as heatwave breaks

Tens of thousands arrive for first weekend of official bathing season, as rules rolled back amid drop in virus cases

Israelis at the Sea of Galilee on May 23, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Israelis at the Sea of Galilee on May 23, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Authorities said Saturday that a number of beaches at the Sea of Galilee had reached capacity under social distancing regulations amid the coronavirus pandemic, as Israelis took advantage of relaxed rules and the end of a blistering heatwave.

The Kinneret Authority said tens of thousands of visitors packed the shores of the lake and that the Lebanon, Zinabberay, Shikmim and Amnon Bay beaches would be opened and closed intermittently to control the flow of bathers in accordance with Health Ministry regulations.

Israel’s beaches reopened on Wednesday after they had been shuttered since early April over COVID-19. Beachgoers are required to stay two meters away from one another, and groups are limited to six, according to government regulations seeking to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.

The beach closure, part of a wider lockdown impacting most facets of Israeli public life, was initially met with broad social acceptance, with the cool weather helping keep people indoors.

Israelis enjoy the beach in Acre, May 22, 2020 (David Cohen/FLASH90)

But as recent weeks saw a gradual easing of restrictions and the advent of scorching summer heat, many Israelis didn’t wait for the official green light to take a plunge.

Last Saturday, Israel’s beaches already saw thousands basking in the sun and enjoying the water, in violation of the rules and in the absence of lifeguards.

Wednesday’s opening of 124 of Israel’s beaches marked the official beginning of the bathing season as the country sweltered under an intense heatwave which killed at least three people. Temperatures in some parts of the country soared past 45 degrees Celsius (113° Fahrenheit).

But temperatures dipped on Friday and lowered further on Saturday, with rain expected in some parts of the country on Sunday.

Also Saturday, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said some 50,000 Israelis visited national parks and nature reserves across the country.

Among the post popular sites were the national parks in Ashkelon, Tel Afek and Caesaria, as well as the nature reserves at Banias and Ein Gedi.

Israel Nature and Parks Authority sites were also shuttered because of the pandemic but earlier this month were allowed to reopen.

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