TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that if Israel’s infection rates and critical COVID-19 cases continue to stabilize, the country would begin to phase out of lockdown after the Passover holiday which ends on Wednesday evening.
Hours later Netanyahu announced a nationwide curfew that would run from Tuesday evening until Thursday morning in anticipation of the last day of the Passover holiday and the Mimouna festival.
On Thursday, the National Security Council — the government body responsible for handling the coronavirus crisis — will present the government with its plan to end the lockdown of the country and begin a gradual return to normal life, the Haaretz news site reported.
“We’ll begin to gradually exit from the lockdown after Passover,” Netanyahu said.
According to the report, the NSC’s key guiding principle will see the labor market resuscitated according to a sliding scale of “significant economic contribution,” with fields which are more profitable to the economy such as hitech and manufacturing companies being the first to return and the entertainment fields being among the last. The public sector will work at 50 percent capacity.
The easing of regulations would occur in four stages over two months, with a two week “test” period between each stage in order to assess whether the virus is still being contained.
Some one million employees would return to work in the first stage.
Strict social distancing and hygiene rules would need to be maintained in all places of work, including the wearing of masks and gloves and measuring body temperature.
Those aged above 60 will be last to return to work.
Special education and preschools would begin in the first stage.
Public transportation would be increased in that stage as well, the report said.
Stage two would see the vast majority of the private and public sector return to work and elementary school students return to school.
Stage three, to begin two weeks after that, would see the rest of the student body return to schools and cafes, restaurants and hotels would reopen their doors.
Malls, recreational centers, and other places of mass gatherings would reopen during the fourth and final stage, said to occur around two months after Passover and only when the virus is under “total control,” the report said.
There were to 11,235 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday morning, including 181 in serious condition and 133 people on ventilators. 1,689 had recovered.
To date, 110 Israelis have died from the virus.