Israel votes to shut gyms, bars, event halls as virus cases skyrocket

Netanyahu says Israel ‘a step away from full lockdown’ during cabinet meeting, which reimpose major restrictions on movement; yeshivas and synagogues, however, to remain open after threats from Haredi parties to quit government

As Israel faces a massive uptick in coronavirus cases, ministers voted Monday to once again close gyms, night clubs, bars and events halls, while beaches and yeshivas (Jewish religious educational facilities) will remain open.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the coronavirus cabinet in the afternoon hours to approve the outline presented by the Health Ministry as the number of daily COVID-19 cases average nearly 1,000 diagnoses.

Disinfection in Israeli gyms

Cultural events and performances will also be halted with immediate effect. Reopening of cultural centers planned for later in the month has now been halted.

Beaches will not be closed but beach-goers will be restricted to certain hours.
Restaurants and cafes, while remaining open, will be restricted to 20 diners inside the premises and another 30 in open air spaces.

Ultra-Orthodox yeshivas (religious schools for males) and synagogues will also remain open following pressure from Interior Minister Aryeh Deri. The number of worshippers, however, will be limited to up to 20 people.

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Police in front of a Bnei Brak yeshiva, where 140 students contracted coronavirus
(Photo: Itay Blumenthal )

According to Channel 12, the yeshivas, which are often packed with students learning in close proximity, were originally included on the list of sites to close as part of the new measures. But a threat by United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni to quit the government led to their removal from the list.

Synagogue prayers amid coronavirus
(Photo: Simcha Heller )

The government also voted reimpose a limit on the number of passengers in public transport, with no more than 20 people allowed on busses. Transportation Minister Miri Regev opposed the decision and even left the meeting before it was over due to disagreements on the issue.
Public busses will also not be allowed to use air conditioner.
Gyms, public swimming pools and pools at hotels, which for now will remain open, will also be closed with immediate effect.
In addition, all social gatherings with over 20 participants are now banned.

No more than 20 people will be allowed on public busses
(Photo: Eli Mandelbaum )
Prof. Eli Waxman, the head of the team of experts that’s advising the National Security Council on Sunday told the ministers if “dramatic” restrictions on movement are not imposed soon, in two weeks’ time the number of sick will be so high that another nationwide lockdown would be inevitable.
Waxman also advised to close beaches and public parks as soon as possible. “Wherever there are gatherings there is danger.”
“Of course, restaurants will be closed, the things that Waxman presented are dramatic, we’re on the way to harsh restrictions,” said one minister after the meeting.

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