Israel Starts Thinking About Easing Up on Restrictions

Men davening at the almost empty Kosel, on Friday, the first day of Chol Hamoed. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Even as coronavirus deaths mount in Israel, authorities are starting to contemplate an exit strategy and thinking about a staggered and carefully calibrated easing of restrictions designed to curb the scourge.

In the past few days, the internal committee of the Finance Ministry has formulated a list of priorities regarding the strategy for easing the coronavirus movement restrictions, according to Channel 12 News.

Hi-tech, industry and finance workers will be among the first to return to work, according to a draft of the lockdown exit plan presented by the Finance Ministry on Motzoei Shabbos.

The draft, which will be presented to Cabinet ministers, would have Israelis gradually returning to work, beginning the Sunday after Pesach, in order to avoid a collapse of the economy.

The Finance Ministry staff also suggested examining the possibility of gradually reopening schools and public transportation in a limited fashion.

The draft is the most comprehensive to be submitted to the National Security Council, and the staff working on it includes economists, physicists, and security experts who discussed the possibility of canceling the summer vacation for schools. The staff also discussed splitting classes into significantly smaller groups, to reduce the chance of the spreading of the infection.

According to the draft, schools will be partially resumed from April 19.

Special needs schools and classes will be the first to return, followed by kindergartens, up to third grade.

Fourth to six grades will return two weeks later.

The staff divided businesses into “green,” “yellow,” and “red” categories. “Green” category businesses are those which provide necessary products despite the economic crisis, and “red” category businesses are those which even if they return to work, are not in demand at the moment, such as tourism.

The report also said that the Finance Ministry is evaluating the possibility of allowing businesses and restaurants to open in a differential fashion.

According to the report’s estimates, over 400,000 of the more than one million Israelis currently unemployed will not return to work even after the lockdown ends. This estimate is double that of an earlier estimate by the Employment Services that 200,000 Israelis would not be able to return to work after the lockdown ended.

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