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Israel begins easing third lockdown after one-third of population receives first vaccine dose

Despite the inoculations, Israel has been registering a daily average of 6,500 new Covid-19 cases.

Israelis wait outside a post office in Tel Aviv as restrictions eased today
Israelis wait outside a post office in Tel Aviv as restrictions eased today
Image: Sebastian Scheiner/PA Images

ISRAELI BARBERSHOPS AND some other businesses reopened today as the country began easing its third coronavirus lockdown amid an aggressive vaccination campaign.

Early Friday, the government announced it was lifting some restrictions imposed since December, when the country saw a rise in Covid-19 infections.

Jerusalem barber Eli Aroas was among those re-opening this morning, the start of the working week.

“I slowly notified all my customers that we are back at work,” the Jerusalem barber said.

“We have a working schedule and orders, and we hope this would be the end of all this saga.”

While shops were not formally permitted to open, many small stores were making transactions with clients standing outside.

Since December, more than 3.4 million out of Israel’s nine-million population have received a coronavirus vaccine jab in what is seen as the world’s fastest per-capita vaccination campaign.

Despite the inoculations, Israel has been registering a daily average of 6,500 new Covid-19 cases, down from around 8,000 in mid-January.

Sarit Reuven was shopping for shoes in downtown Jerusalem, just in time for her son’s wedding on Monday.

“There is a feeling of optimism in the air, I think we can already see the end,” she said. “I hope this will have been the last lockdown.”

A strict nationwide lockdown in force since 27 December has been extended four times to combat the infection rate, but January was the deadliest month yet, with more than 1,000 Covid fatalities.

But as today, Israelis were no longer restricted to within one kilometre  of their homes.

Hair and beauty salons are allowed to have one person providing a service to one client, while and nature reserves and national parks reopened.

Hotels remain shuttered and restaurants will be allowed to cater only for takeaways, while guesthouses can host members of the same nuclear family only.

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A suspension of international flights will remain in place until 20 February, along with the closure of Israel’s land borders.

Israelis stranded abroad will be able to return on special flights.

The cabinet was due to meet later today to plan the further relaxing of limitations, especially the educational system, set to reopen Tuesday morning.

The government also increased fines for businesses or schools operating in violation of the restrictions.

Many ultra-Orthodox institutions had opened during the lockdown in defiance of instructions, and some frustrated entrepreneurs have announced they will reopen their businesses even before the lockdown is entirely lifted.

Israel has registered a total of more than 687,000 cases of Covid-19, including over 5,000 deaths.

© AFP 2021

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