Downsized Gatherings and Takeout Only: These Are the New Coronavirus Restrictions

Here is a full breakdown of what residents of Israel are expected to do

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Women wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem, July 16, 2020.
Women wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem, July 16, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

As Israel battles a renewed COVID-19 outbreak, the government approved new restrictions on Thursday night, hoping to curb cases while keeping the battered Israeli economy afloat. This means a partial, or at least weekend, lockdown, as well as new closures and rules.

The new regulations have now gone into effect. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in an interview with Channel 12 News on Friday night that these rules were dictated by common sense: "Places are dangerous when they are crowded, enclosed, where people do not wear masks and are in close contact," he said.

Here is a full breakdown of what residents of Israel are expected to do.

There are currently no limits on movement, but public gatherings are now limited to twenty people outdoors, and ten indoors, so long as they keep a distance of two meters from each other. This does not affect workplaces (which are subject to other rules) or nuclear families.

The rules are based on the same two major precautions repeated by all public health officials since the beginning of the outbreak: Social distancing and wearing masks. Wearing a mask is mandatory as soon as you step outside your home for everyone over the age of 7; those who break the rule face an on-the-spot fine of 500 shekels, with no warning.

With one exception: Two people can routinely exercise together, as can members of the same household, with no compulsory use of a mask.

Social distancing guidelines are applied everywhere. All enclosed spaces have specific regulations regarding the number of people that are allowed at any given time, with the enforcement of these rules primarily resting on the venue. Expect to get your temperature checked before entering every store, and to be asked to keep your distance from employees and fellow shoppers at checkout.

Places where staff members must come into contact with customers (barbershops and beauty salons) are required to ask customers whether they are experiencing symptoms and disinfect all materials between customers. They must wear a mask, face shield and gloves.

Mental health professionals can meet with patients without a mask, so long as they keep a distance of three meters between each other.

Businesses that violate the rules are liable to be fined 2,000 shekels (around $600).

Bars and entertainment

Most entertainment venues, such as clubs, bars, event halls, as well as all concert venues, and any place that hosts some kind of performance (including talks and conventions) are shut until further notice. This does not include restaurants for now, which have earned a respite until Tuesday, 5 A.M. They are expected to be closed for service then, even for outdoor seating, although they will remain open for delivery and takeout.

Exercise and sports venues are also closed. This includes gyms, dance and fitness studios, public baths and waterparks.

A bar in Jerusalem. Credit: Emil Salman

Quiet weekends ahead

Israel will begin to experience an even quieter Shabbat than usual. All places providing a non-essential service that are currently allowed during the week will be suspended during 36 hours on the weekends, from Friday, 5:00 P.M. to Sunday, 5:00 A.M.

All stores will be closed, including in malls and markets, and so will service providers, like beauty salons and barbershops. The government announced that they would also be shuttering other non-essential sites on weekends, but the coronavirus committee approved the weekend reopenings of museums, tourist attractions and zoos on Thursday morning.

The government originally ordered all beaches and public pools shuttered on weekends, but walked back the decision a few days later.

Some shops will remain open, namely those that provide essential products, namely supermarkets and bakeries, pharmacies, optical stores and media and communications centers.

Places of worship will also operate, but no more than ten people can be present at a time, and they must keep a distance of two meters. Ritual baths will remain open for up to three people at any given time. Women's ritual bath visits must be coordinated in advance.

Hotels will remain open, but bars on hotel property will have to be closed. Hotels will be able to operate both restaurants – limited to 35 percent capacity – and pools.

Getting around

Masks are now required on trains, for the entire duration of the ride. This means that eating is now forbidden in the cars. Authorities specify that making a phone call is not an excuse for taking off your mask.

People wearing face masks walk by the beach, Tel Aviv, July 16, 2020.

Trains are limited to 500 passengers, and tickets must be ordered in advance, with entry vouchers given at the entrance to the station. There are no limits on the number of passengers in buses, but passengers are not allowed to sit side by side. The row of seats behind the driver must also remain free. Taxis are limited to two passengers at a time, who must sit in the backseat, with masks and windows open.

Private car rides are limited to three people – the driver and two passengers – barring emergencies, and cars with an extra row of seats can hold one extra passenger. This does not apply to members of the same household.

The kids are alright – for now

Summer activities for children can welcome up to 50 participants, as long as they wear masks and maintain social distance (two meters outdoors, five meters indoors).

Health Minister Edelstein said on Friday night his position was that summer schools and camps should be closed; there might be changes to these regulations in the short term.

Since July 5, universities and colleges may not hold in-person exams, with the exception of special cases. There is currently no agreement between government ministries or the Higher Education Council of the scope of these exceptional exams.

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