Israel to reopen businesses lockdown partially eases

Jerusalem, April 25 (IANS) Israel has approved the reopening of all street-level businesses to continue gradually lifting restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus and strengthen the country’s economy after the worst phase of the pandemic.

Establishments on public roads that were still closed, some already opened five days ago, such as barbershops, hairdressers and beauty salons will be able to reopen as of Sunday, whereas shopping centres will have to keep remain closed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement on Friday.

Cafes and restaurants, which until now could only do home deliveries, will be able to offer takeaway, although clients will not be allowed to sit at tables and eat in the establishments.

The country has so far registered 193 deaths and more than 14,880 infections.

The Israeli government imposed strict restrictions in March, measures that started to be slowly lifted on April 19.

Since then, public transport services have increased, retail trade has reopened and 30 per cent of workers in companies and industries – with a maximum of ten people- have been allowed back to their stations.

For businesses to reopen they must be at street level and adhere to social distancing measures, such as separation barriers between employees and customers, two metres between people, strict hygiene regulations and a limit on the number of people allowed in an establishment.

The measures were part of Israel’s plans to gradually recover its economic activity, which has been hugely affected by the pandemic as the country has more than a million unemployed and the economic damage has hit all sectors.

The government also approved on Friday a 2.1 billion euro package to support self-employed workers and small businesses, which have seen their activity reduced to a minimum or even to zero in recent weeks.

Despite the lifting of some restrictions, residents must remain confined and are not allowed to go more than 500 meters away from their homes unless it is for work or other basic necessities reasons.

Since Thursday, a night-time curfew was also imposed in Muslim majority areas for the holy month of Ramzan, to avoid movement of people and crowds.