Photo: Flash90

Israeli cafes reopen after 3-month closure

De-escalation of COVID-19 restrictions in Israel  has seen the reopening of most cafes, restaurants and bars after being forced to close their doors in March.

The cabinet also approved the resumption of activities at swimming pools, museums, amusement venues and tourist attractions.

“We want to help the economy, but also ease your lives, make it possible for you to get out, return to normalcy, get a cup of coffee, a glass of beer as well – so first of all have fun,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while unveiling the latest lifting of anti-virus measures.

The Israeli leader then cautioned, “We would like to see people go out for a drink or a good time, but we will watch developments and react accordingly.”

All businesses must continue to observe social distancing and other Health Ministry requirements or risk fines.

Reservations are required in advance to prevent overcrowding, and customers must sign health declarations and have their temperatures taken before permitted entrance. Settings of utensils and other individual items will only be placed after the visitors have been seated at freshly-sanitized tables upon departure by previous patrons. All chairs and condiments must also be disinfected. The provision of disposable menus and hand sanitizer is now also compulsory.

Buffets remain off-limits for the time-being, and tables must be placed at least 1.5 meters apart. Even those dining at outdoor restaurants must remain at least 1 meter apart.

All wait staff must wear masks, even though they are not required in the kitchens. Dishes are to be washed at 72 degrees Celsius or higher.

Venues able to accommodate 100 customers or less are allowed to reach 100% occupancy, while establishments above that number must restrict crowd size to 85%.

Six nature reserves and national parks have also been reopened to visitors, just ahead of the Shavuot holiday which begins at sunset this evening. The annual celebration, known as the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost in English, commemorates the day when God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai as well as the wheat harvest in the Land of Israel (Exodus 34:22).

The latest easing of measures was approved following a consistent decline of coronavirus diagnoses, even though this week saw a massive rise in the disease.

The Ministry of Health announced this morning that 75 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed over the past three days. To date, there have been 16,809 infected Israelis, 281 deaths, 1,926 active cases of which 41 are in critical condition, and 15,286 recoveries.

In Jerusalem today, the entire student body of 1000 pupils at the central Gymnasia Rehavia high school was required to undergoing testing for COVID-19 after 6 faculty members contracted the virus. The facility will be closed once again after the Shavuot holiday and online classes will be reinstated.