Israel Eases Coronavirus Restrictions: More Stores, Hairdressers Allowed to Open

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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People shopping at the Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem, April 23, 2020
People shopping at the Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem, April 23, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

The Israeli cabinet approved further easing of coronavirus regulations on Friday, with new rules set to take effect on Saturday night.

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Hairdressers and cosmeticians will be allowed to reopen from Saturday night, as will stores in open areas. Stores located inside closed shopping centers, including malls, will remain closed for now, as will markets. People will also be able to buy take away food from restaurants, as opposed to only ordering deliveries.

Ministers told Haaretz that no medical experts participated in the cabinet’s discussion and no in-depth data on the potential significance of the new regulations was presented. One minister said the decisions were made based on general assessments from the Health Ministry and as a result of requests by ministers.

Key changes to restrictions include:

■ People will be allowed to collect take away from restaurants, with limitations.

■ Hairdressers and beauty salons will be allowed to open, with restrictions.

■ Stores in the public space will be allowed to reopen, with the exception of indoor malls, with limitations.

■ The police will be able to issue fines of 200 shekels (about $55) to people not wearing face masks in public – without issuing a warning first. Those aged 7 and above with be obliged to wear a mask.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of ministers said easing the closure is conditional on people following the rules about being in public, especially regarding wearing masks.

The decision to tighten the regulations on wearing masks was not made just because of the medical benefits, but also to maintain awareness of the situation, sources with knowledge of the cabinet discussion told Haaretz.

A lady shops at Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem, April 23, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Wearing a mask will remind the pubic that, despite the relaxation of the rules, the pandemic still exists and personal responsibility is still important, they added.

During the meeting, conducted by conference call, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ofir Akunis and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan requested that people be allowed to leave their homes beyond the 100-meter and 500-meter limits, as well as allowing children to play in public parks.

The permission to go shopping in stores makes these limitations superfluous, they said – but their position was rejected by the cabinet. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin asked to allow bed and breakfasts to reopen, while Defense Minister Naftali Bennett requested to allow people to visit nature reserves, but these proposals were also not approved.

Erdan once again asked that participation in protested be limited on the basis that the police have no way to enforce Health Ministry regulations at such events. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit objected, however, and Erdan’s request was not approved. Erdan also asked that gyms be allowed to reopen.

At the request of Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, the Finance Ministry will allow more government employees to return to work, once the civil service meets the standards for safe workplaces, which for now only apply to private sector workplaces.

According to one of the participants in the cabinet discussion, Culture and Sports minister Miri Regev asked time after time to allow cosmeticians to reopen for laser treatments because “I have had a large number of requests on the matter.”

In the end, the cabinet’s announcement stated: “The regulations permit the opening of hairdressing salons and beauty parlors, and cosmeticians, including laser hair removal.”

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