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February 16, 2021 10:01 am

Israel’s Cabinet OKs Plan for Second, Third Stages of Lockdown Exit

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Israelis at the beach in Tel Aviv as Israel exits its third COVID-19 lockdown, Feb. 7. 2021. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90. – Israel’s Cabinet on Monday approved in principle a Health Ministry outline for the second and third stages of the exit from the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.

The second stage is slated to begin on Sunday at 7 am with the opening of malls, outdoor shopping centers and markets, street stores, museums and libraries. Synagogues and other houses of worship will be permitted to open their doors, with a limit of 10 worshipers inside or 20 outside.

Classes will begin opening as well for some grades, depending on the status of the city (or neighborhood) in terms of COVID-19 cases and the level of vaccinations.

Gyms, pools, cultural and sports events, as well as fairs, will be open to those with a “Green Passport,” issued to those for whom seven days have passed since receiving the second dose of the Pzifer-BioNTech vaccine.

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The third phase, which is scheduled to begin on March 7, will involve more classes opening back up, with cafes and small restaurants being allowed to serve those without Green Passports, while larger restaurants (with advance registration), event halls, attractions and conferences will be open to those with Green Passports.

Indoor gatherings will be restricted to 20 people, while the figure for outdoor gatherings will be raised to 50.

The Cabinet approved a special outline for the Purim holiday, which begins on the evening of Feb. 25. As per the second phase of the exit plan, gatherings will be restricted to 10 indoors and 20 outdoors, but holiday meals will be limited to immediate family members only. All parties, parades and mass events will be prohibited, and the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar-Yochai will be closed from Feb. 18 to Feb. 21.

In an interview with Channel 12 on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the 570,000 people over 50 who have not yet been vaccinated will determine whether or not the current lockdown is Israel’s last.

“Go and get vaccinated! Not just for your health but for all of our health,” said Netanyahu. “Our victory over the pandemic depends on you.”

The prime minister stressed that “nearly 100 percent” of the serious cases and deaths from the virus are in this age group. To date, 58 percent of those between the ages of 50-59; 72 percent of those between 60-69; 89.3 percent of those between 70-79; 82 percent of those between 80-89; and 83 percent of those over 90 have been fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry.

The last week has seen a significant decrease in both the number of new daily cases and the number of serious cases. On Monday, fewer than 5,000 cases were diagnosed, down from nearly 8,000 on Feb. 8, according to Health Ministry data. Currently, 962 people are listed in serious condition, down from 1,129 on Feb. 8.

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