Israel returned almost to normality this Sunday, with 15 days to go before the elections, thanks to the new measures to leave the confinement that allow the return to school, sit in a cafe or eat in a restaurant.
These measures, approved by the government on Saturday night, were highly anticipated by Israelis since the country’s gradual exit from its third lockdown in mid-February, which was made possible by a massive vaccination campaign.
“Open” or “Back to normalcy, with caution” were the headlines of the main national newspapers.
“It is a great day, we open the restaurants with the green passport, we are coming back to life,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, sitting on a sunny terrace in a Jerusalem cafe next to the mayor of the Holy City, Moshe Leon. .
On Saturday the Israelis were still supposed to have their coffee to go but from Sunday they can sit on the terrace.
And bars and restaurants can now reopen for those who have the so-called “green passport”, a permit that is granted to people who have received two doses of the vaccine or have been cured of covid-19.
This reopening comes at the right time for Netanyahu, who plays the card of the “Vaccine Nation” (“the country of the vaccine”), a return to normality favored by mass vaccination, in an attempt to win the legislative March 23, the fourth in less than two years.
The latest polls give his party, the Likud (right), the first place, but without enough support, for now, to form a government with its allies.
More than half of Israel’s 9.3 million people received a first dose of the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine, to which Israel has privileged access under an agreement to share biomedical data on the effects of vaccination. And about 40% of Israelis received the second dose.
– Airports, restaurants and variants –
Under new measures to ease restrictions that went into effect on Sunday, schoolchildren will be able to return to classrooms in areas where the pollution rate remains low.
Restrictions in places of worship have also been relaxed: 50 people outdoors and 20 indoors. The hotel reception rooms and dining rooms are also reopening, which can accommodate up to 50% of their capacity, with a maximum of 300 people.
Cultural and sporting events and conferences may be resumed with a maximum of 500 people inside and 750 outside, upon presentation of the “green passport”.
Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, closed since the end of January except for cargo flights and special ones that allow a maximum of 200 people to return home a day, increased its capacity to 1,000 daily travelers from New York, Frankfurt , Paris, London, Kiev, Toronto and Hong Kong.
This number is expected to rise to 3,000 by the middle of the week.
The vaccination campaign, which began on December 19, reduced the number of infections from a peak of 10,000 a day in mid-January to about 3,600 a day last week, with test positivity rates declining.
Yet despite this decline, public health officials remain cautious, especially as the number of people getting vaccinated is beginning to stabilize and variants of the virus continue to circulate.
“If we do not act responsibly, if we do not follow the guidelines, there is the possibility of a fourth confinement before the elections,” warned this weekend Nachman Ash, the coordinator of the fight against the coronavirus.