A top Israeli doctor and an adviser to the government during the coronavirus pandemic hosted a play in the living room of her home for friends and colleagues, underlining the growing conviction in Israel that the worst of the pandemic is over now that most of the population is vaccinated.
Idit Matot, director of anesthesia in Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, is a member of the Health Ministry team advising the cabinet and leading the charge on tackling the pandemic.
This week, the professor hosted the theatrical event in her living room, inviting actors and colleagues who have been fully vaccinated, and letting Channel 12 film it.
“In the army, they say what is an experience? An experience is a nightmare that ended… So that’s it, we are going to have an experience today,” Matot told Channel 12 ahead of watching the play.
Performances staged at homes for small groups became a growing phenomenon intermittently during the past year of the pandemic, in periods when the country was not in lockdown. With theaters and other cultural venues closed, actors and directors hungry to create have at times built productions especially for private homes, or adapted existing works.
Theaters were allowed to start reopening a few weeks ago in partial capacity, though the process has been slow and most large theaters have yet to return to business.
Officials quoted by Channel 13 news Thursday said the national situation was “the most hopeful it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic” last year. The officials said that if the positive trajectory continues, Israelis will be able to celebrate Passover without limitations at the end of March.
In an interview with the network, former national coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu said he agreed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments to Fox News last week that “the coronavirus as a pandemic is behind us.”
On Tuesday, Channel 12 reported a Health Ministry plan to allow more participants at events such as wedding ceremonies, sports competitions and other cultural events. Officials said that they have been discussing expanding the occupancy allowance in large venues by an additional 25 percent. The current cap for event venues and hotel dining rooms is 50% and no more than 300 people.
“I am content with the widespread opening of the economy,” the head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Sharon Alroy-Preis, told Army Radio on Tuesday, adding that “despite the high infection rate, the number of new deaths is down — this shows the vaccines are working.”
So far, 5,117,096 people have received the first dose of their vaccination — some 55% of the population — and 4,094,073 have had the second as well (44%), ministry figures published Friday showed. Some three million Israelis are under the age of 16 and therefore cannot receive the vaccine.
Much of the economy reopened last Sunday, as the lockdown was further rolled back, including restaurants, cafes, school grades 7-10 in low- to medium-infection areas, event venues, attractions and hotels. Higher education institutions and religious seminaries were opened to vaccinated or recovered people, and rules on gatherings and worship were relaxed.
The cabinet also decided to ease restrictions on international travel and sidelined a highly controversial committee that was deciding who could enter or leave the country while the airport remained largely shuttered.