The skies are opening, and gatherings are expanding, despite the pandemic continuing to plague the State of Israel.
On Sunday, Israelis can fly from Tel Aviv to Bulgaria, Croatia and certain locations in Greece, and when they return home, they will not be required to enter isolation.
In addition, Israelis could return from another several states without entering quarantine: Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Georgia, Hungary, Hong Kong, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Rwanda and Slovenia – but those states have made no agreement to take Israelis as of yet.
Already, there is a flight from Israel to Bulgaria on Sunday and at least two flights to Greece on Monday. Travelers need to remember to register at least 24 hours in advance with the Health Ministry and to take a coronavirus test that comes out negative before leaving the country.
At the same time, gatherings should expand by afternoon, after the coronavirus cabinet meeting that was cut short Thursday due to the announcement of an impending peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, reconvened Friday morning and established a set of new and uniform rules for gathering.
Going forward, up to 30 people can gather in an open space. In places of up to 80 square meters, 10 people can gather. In place over 80 square meters, 20.
The updated restrictions would apply to all gatherings, including cultural events that are not approved for larger crowds by the Health Ministry, except synagogues and restaurants.
Late Saturday night, after receiving pressure from the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities and the Restaurant Association, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that on Sunday the cabinet would vote on an updated directive allowing synagogues and restaurants to have 20 people in closed spaces regardless of their size, so long as visitors could maintain a distance of two meters between them.
Occupancy in places of business remains at one person per every seven square meters. Public places of business include malls, museums, shops, pools and gyms, for example.
Other rule changes the cabinet approved: Aides for people with disabilities can be considered “family members” and escort them. Also, delivery people can bring in deliveries to the homes of people with physician handicaps.
The approval of these decisions will be submitted to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Unless the committee votes otherwise, the regulations will go into force on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The decision comes against the backdrop of continual increasing coronavirus in Israel.
On Saturday night, the Health Ministry reported that 1,386 people were infected with corona on Friday and another 665 between midnight and press time on Saturday. Israel crossed a coronavirus threshold, announcing that more than 90,000 people have had the virus since the start of the pandemic.
On Saturday night, there were 387 people in serious condition, including 116 who were intubated. Some nine people died over Shabbat, bringing the death toll to 674.
While Jerusalem has already been the city with the highest number of people infected, the situation is becoming acute in the eastern sector. Of the 3,835 people in Jerusalem with the virus, around 46% are residents of east Jerusalem. Moreover, of those tested last Thursday in east Jerusalem, some 43% tested positive.
N12 explained the phenomenon on its Saturday night newscast, saying that many people got sick two weeks ago during Eid al-Adha celebrations and the results are now surfacing. Plus, Friday prayers on the Temple Mount are spreading infection. A coronavirus testing center will open on Sunday in the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood to help get a better handle on the situation.
Another village became the focal point of infection over the weekend: Yarka. The Health Ministry named the village an orange zone and requested that the public not visit there.
There are 282 sick people in Yarka – some 126 who were diagnosed in the last week.
The IDF Home Front Command set up a drive-in testing center there over the weekend, screening some 600 people, the IDF said.
The Home Front Command also helped evacuate sick residents to coronavirus hotels and hospitals and provided information about the virus and the need to stay safe to the public. Soldiers likewise met with clerics to help spread the message, the IDF added.
The Health Ministry reported Friday that there was also a coronavirus outbreak in the outskirts of Petah Tikva, in the city’s industrial zone, where about 150 foreign workers live.
The city’s mayor instructed authorities to cordon off the area and operate an outpatient clinic there instead. The residents will be tested over the weekend, the mayor said. The city is working in conjunction with the Health Ministry and Homefront Command.