Israeli Officials Clamp Down on Post-Pesach Optimism

YERUSHALAYIM -
israel coronavirus
Police patrol Meah Shearim, Sunday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Government officials are worried that reports about a reopening of the economy after Pesach have led Israelis to prematurely lower their compliance with Health Ministry regulations on movement and social distancing.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ said on Sunday that no decision on a rollback of restrictions would be made until after Pesach.

The National Security Council, which has been coordinating the response to the pandemic, instructed ministers not to make any public promises or even give the impression that a decision has been made to start returning to normal, Ynet quoted Health Ministry Deputy Director Itamar Grotto as saying.

“We have to explain to the public that they need to continue to keep to the regulations with no let-up, especially during the holiday,” he said. “This is a basic condition for being able to start a gradual and cautious exit toward a different routine.”

The Kan News broadcaster also quoted an unnamed minister saying, “There’s no clear exit strategy, there are not enough tests, and no tools on the table other than decisions that put the country in a lockdown.”

Avi Simhon, the prime minister’s economics adviser, told the station that relief will not be immediate. “I don’t think that in another two months we’ll be in a situation where it’s like nothing happened; that scenario is too optimistic,” he said.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that the Finance Ministry was developing a plan that called for up to 50 percent of the workforce to return as early as April 19. The workforce is currently officially at 15 percent. By that date, small shopping centers would be permitted to reopen and restaurants allowed to resume take-out service.

By May 17, the big malls would be open again, public transportation would be back to full capacity and 85 percent of the workers could go back to their jobs.