Health Ministry Agrees to Reopen Gyms as Lockdown Looms

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israelis exercise at a gym club in Yerushalayim, while it was still permitted, in May. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

As the coronavirus infection rate continues to go up, so do the official warnings that a third national lockdown is on the way.

“We will be forced to shut down retail and trade,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told Channel 2 on Tuesday, “given the coronavirus statistics we’re seeing right now.”

To show he wasn’t kidding, Edelstein noted that “the government already decided on very clear criteria regarding reimposition of restrictions. We said that when we reach 2,500 new cases per day, with an R-rate of 1.32, that’s when it happens. We’re not far off that now.”

Tuesday morning’s update from the Health Ministry reported 2,284 new Covid-19 diagnoses out of 72,423 tests administered – a positivity rate of 3.2%. The number of serious cases in the country’s hospital has also risen to 378, although the number of people on ventilators has dropped to 98.

The Health Ministry seemed at the same time to be moving in the opposite direction, agreeing to a plan to soon reopen gyms and health clubs, according to The Times of Israel.

Edelstein and the head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis worked out a deal with representatives of the Gym Forum on Tuesday.

Hedging their bets, though, the agreement stipulates that while the fitness industry will be the next sector to reopen, in the event of another nationwide lockdown, it will be the first to reopen.

In addition, the Health Ministry agreed that the fitness industry should be a major part of public health rehabilitation after the coronavirus crisis.

Stella Weinstein, chairwoman of the gym forum who attended the meeting said at the conclusion: “We are delighted that after 10 months the Health Minister has found the time to meet us and hear our demands.

“At the meeting, the health minister and the head of Public Health in the Health Ministry admitted to us that a mistake had been made with the fitness industry and that they intended to open it as soon as possible, under the outline we proposed to them.

“I sincerely hope that Health Minister Mr. Yuli Edelstein and Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, who understand the critical importance of the fitness industry for the health of the Israeli public, will keep their promise and open the industry at the first possible opportunity according to an agreement between us.”

The Health Ministry did not publicly acknowledge any mistake in its policy concerning the gyms and health clubs.