Health Ministry Head: Expect Very Gradual Return to Normalcy

israel economy coronavirus
Vehicles wait at a roadblock set up by police on a road leading to Yerushalayim, near Ein Hemed. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

With Israelis entering into a full closure and curfew Tuesday night, Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Barsimantov said that the path to a complete lifting of all quarantine restrictions was clear: As soon as the number of newly infected falls to several dozen instead of hundreds a day, it will be clear that the spread of coronavirus is waning, and it will be safe to begin lifting restrictions.

“After Pesach we want to begin freeing up the economy gradually,” he told Channel 12 in an interview. “We want to see a significant fall in the number of new cases. When we do, we will be able to widen the range of activities, taking a chance on activities that right now may be dangerous. Right now the economy is functioning at about 15% of capacity, we will increase it to about 30%.”

The first step that will affect most people will entail expanding the range of movement. Currently, Israelis are generally restricted to within 100 meters (328 feet) of their home, and after Pesach the Health Ministry plans to increase that. “We will ensure that we take small steps to return to normal that do not entail taking unnecessary risks,” said Barsimantov, adding that wearing masks will likely be a part of the Israeli landscape for some time to come. “The order to wear masks in public will be an important part of preventing future outbreaks.”

Children are likely to go back to school on a limited basis as well. “We are considering bringing children back to school with smaller groups on alternative days,” he said. Reports Tuesday said that the government planned to allow special education and kindergarten students to return to school in the days after Pesach.

The first sectors to return to work will be industry, finance, and high-tech. “We will gradually increase the number of workers in each sector, to ensure safety,” Barsimantov said. Restaurants and places of entertainment will be reopened only later, and with safety precautions in place, he added.