Virus: beginning of progressive deconfinement in Israel

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Israel began the first stage of its gradual deconfinement on Sunday, after seeing a drop in the number of cases of people infected with the new coronavirus, a month after the restrictions came into force.

Nurseries, kindergartens, national parks and beaches have reopened, businesses that do not welcome the public have been able to return to work and Israelis are now allowed to travel more than a kilometer from their homes.

Gatherings are however limited to less than 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors.

“We are coming out (of confinement) this time with caution,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday evening, this first phase of deconfinement to be spread over several months, until February 2021.

Containment, put in place on September 18, remains in effect in several ultra-Orthodox Jewish localities in the country where the infection rate remains high.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most influential Ashkenazi spiritual leaders, has urged his followers to reopen ultra-Orthodox schools, despite the ban by the authorities.

Prime Minister Netanyahu specifically called on ultra-Orthodox Jews to “follow the rules” and warned that restrictions would be immediately reinstated if the number of cases escalates.

Israel prided itself on good management of the health crisis in the spring and quickly ended a first lockdown in order to get the economy back on track.

But the country of nine million inhabitants recorded in September one of the highest rates of contamination in the world, according to data from AFP.

At the end of September, the number of daily contaminations was between 8,000 and 9,000 cases, but has fallen below the 2,000 mark since Wednesday.

The Israeli Ministry of Health has officially identified more than 302,800 patients, including nearly 2,200 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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