Israel to Partially Reopen Commerce, More Schools Sunday in Next Phase of COVID Lockdown Exit Plan

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Mall in Petah Tikva, Israel.
Mall in Petah Tikva, Israel.Credit: CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS

The coronavirus cabinet approved Monday a plan to reopen street shops, malls and open-air markets to the general public on Sunday. Museums, libraries and houses of worship will also reopen, with no need to present a vaccination certificate.

Schools will reopen to grades five, six, 11 and 12 in cities and towns with lower coronavirus infection rates.

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Gyms, sporting and cultural events, hotels (with the exception of their restaurants and dining halls) and swimming pools will open to those who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Hotels will also open to minors under age 16 who have tested negative for the disease.

Starting Friday, restrictions on gatherings will also be loosened, with gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors permitted.

During the cabinet meeting, Education Minister Yoav Gallant called for the full reopening of the schools in cities with relatively low infection rates. According to the plan approved by the ministers, schools in these areas will only full reopen under the next phase of the lockdown exit plan, which will take effect on March 7.

Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv.Credit: JACK GUEZ - AFP

That phase will also include reopening cafes and small restaurants to the general public regardless of vaccination status. Hotels will open fully to inoculated Israelis, as will event halls, conferences, attractions and other events. Those holding a vaccination certificate will also be able to make reservations in restaurants.

During that phase, 20 people will be able to gather indoors and 50 outdoors, with the exception of areas with high infection rates, where those restrictions will not be eased. 

“The situation is intolerable for the children and parents and they come with a heavy price,” Gallant said. “There is no reason to leave a single student at home in those cities.” Galant added that schools could be partially reopened in cities with a medium infection rate as well.

For the upcoming Purim holiday, which falls on next Thursday night through Friday, a number of temporary restrictions will go into place. Gatherings will be forbidden except in places of worship; in exceptional cases, gatherings will be restricted to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors. Holiday meals will be attended by the nuclear family alone. 

Parties will be strictly forbidden, including the traditional Adloyada parade and Purim events. The grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a pilgrimage site during the holiday, will be closed from that Friday through Sunday.

Netanyahu said that the economy should be reopened in two phases. Netanyahu advocated for reopening stores and synagogues to the general public and opening museums, malls, markets, gyms, cultural and sport events, and hotels to those who have been vaccinated. “In the second phase, some two weeks later, we’ll open additional venues,” Netanyahu said.

He added that more than 570,000 Israeli adults over 50 who are yet to be vaccinated are "endangering their health, and risk death." 

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