Israel eases coronavirus restrictions

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel began easing movement restrictions yesterday while pointedly avoiding announcing any exit from an ongoing lockdown to forestall the spread of coronavirus.

A cabinet vote in the early hours of the morning approved several measures, including a reopening of high street shops, schools for children with special educational needs and a resumption of small scale prayer meetings, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

Most of the measures take effect from yesterday, while the selected schools will reopen their doors to pupils tomorrow, according to the Education Ministry.

Prayer gatherings of up to 19 people at a time will be allowed, on condition that they take place in the open air with people wearing masks and at least two metres apart – higher than a limit of 10 people initially proposed by the Prime Minister last Saturday. As part of social distancing, places of worship for all faiths had previously been closed and from April 12 wearing face masks in public became mandatory.

In a televised address last Saturday, Netanyahu had outlined “a responsible and gradual” plan allowing the return of some workers to offices and industry.

With Ramadhan set to begin in the coming days, the premier urged Muslims in Israel to have “meals only with your nuclear family.”

An Israeli policeman wearing a protective mask and latex gloves stops Palestinian men outside the Damascus gate in the old city of Jerusalem during a lockdown. PHOTO: AFP