TEL AVIV – Israel announced Thursday it would begin easing coronavirus restrictions as a nationwide Passover curfew ended.
Bakeries, closed for the Passover holiday, reopened at 2am to avoid a post-Passover rush. Public transportation resumed in a limited capacity.
Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and the city of Bnei Brak remained closed but government officials said that the closures would not be in place for much longer.
The National Security Council — the government body responsible for handling the coronavirus crisis — was slated to present the government with its plan to end the lockdown of the country and begin a gradual return to normal life, the Haaretz news site reported.
The cabinet was to discuss plans Thursday afternoon for a gradual return to semi-normalcy, though officials stressed that it would be a long while before life returns to pre-pandemic routine.
Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov on Wednesday told Channel 13 news that restrictions would likely be eased “in the coming days.”
“If the Israeli public continues its excellent behavior, we’ll be able to take further steps forward,” he said according to a translation of his remarks by The Times of Israel.
“We don’t like the term ‘exit strategy’ but rather ‘routine under coronavirus,’” Bar Siman-Tov said. “Because coronavirus is here. It’s not leaving us… We’ll have to take measured steps, see that things are under control and if they stay that way, go a little bit further every time.”
According to his ministry, Israel has performed an unprecedented 10,000 coronavirus tests a day over the last days of the festival.
Reopening schools was not immediately viable, the report said. However, authorities are considering allowing families to join up in groups of four to take turns in watching over children.
“As around the world, we are feeling around in the dark,” a ministry source told Channel 12. “The public must understand that every easing [of restrictions] means more dead.”
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said he believed Israel should reopen most of its national economy, in particular, fields relating to industry, trade and services, as well as parts of the education system this coming Sunday.
“Continuing the closure at its current level or a slightly reduced one will cause critical harm to Israel and its citizens,” he said in a statement translated by The Times of Israel.
There were to 12,591 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday morning, including 181 in serious condition and 174 people on ventilators. 2,624 had recovered.