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May 20, 2020 9:59 am

Israel Reopens Synagogues, Beaches as Coronavirus Restrictions Loosen Further

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People visit a beach along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen. – Israel reopened its beaches and synagogues on Wednesday, following two months of lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Up to 50 worshippers at a time may now pray together indoors, as long as they maintain a distance of two meters from each other and wear face masks.

Beaches that meet the government’s “purple badge” standard to reduce the risk of infection in workplaces will be allowed to reopen, though showers and changing facilities will remain closed for the time being.

On Tuesday, Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau had urged the government to reopen houses of worship, saying it was “baffling” they remained closed while businesses, schools, malls and markets were open.

Additionally, restrictions were lifted on the number of passengers allowed on buses during peak travel hours. Trains are expected to remain closed at least until the end of May.

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Museums will now be allowed to reopen, providing that no exhibits encourage physical interaction or require touch.

Some 14,000 restaurants, cafés and bars are expected to be given the go-ahead to serve diners starting May 27.

According to an agreement between the Health Ministry and the Israeli Restaurants Association, restaurants with occupancy of up to 100 customers will be allowed to operate at full capacity, while larger restaurants can operate at 85 percent occupancy. All tables will be positioned at least 1.5 meters apart.

Swimming pools, hotels, after-school activities and youth groups are also expected to begin operating at the end of the month, though additional distancing and hygienic guidelines will be enforced at those locations.

Banquet halls were told they could open for business on June 14.

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