Sitting in a cafe, eating out, going back to school benches: Israel almost returned to normal this Sunday, thanks to new deconfinement measures, a fortnight away from new national elections.
These measures, validated Saturday evening by the government, were eagerly awaited by the Israelis since the country’s gradual exit from its third confinement in mid-February, made possible by a massive vaccination campaign.
“We are coming back to life”
“Almost normal return to normal”, “Open”, “Return to normal, with caution”, headlined the main national dailies, respectively Yedioth Aharonot, the best-selling title in the country, Maariv and the free Israel Hayom.
“It’s a great day, we open the restaurants with the green passport, we return to life,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, seated on the terrace, on a sunny morning, in a café in Jerusalem with the mayor. Israeli from the Holy City, Moshe Leon.
“We must support restaurants”
Again Saturday, the Israelis had to take their coffee to go but since Sunday, they can sit on the terrace. And bars and restaurants can now reopen for holders of the “green passport”, a permit granted to people who have received two doses of the vaccine or recovered from Covid-19.
“With this reopening we feel like an air of spring (…) restaurateurs have had a year of misery so we said to ourselves that we had to show our solidarity now that we can. We must support the restaurants, ”testifies Shimon Chasin, who came to have a bite to eat with his wife and friends at the Azura restaurant in Jerusalem.
This reopening comes at the right time for Benjamin Netanyahu who fully plays the card of the “Vaccine Nation” (“the country of the vaccine”, note), underlining a return to normal favored by intensive vaccination, to try to win the elections legislative of March 23, the fourth in less than two years.
The latest polls currently credit his party, the Likud (right), with first place, but without enough support, at present, to form a government with his allies.
More than half of the 9.3 million Israelis have received a first dose of the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine, to which Israel has privileged access under an agreement to share biomedical data on the effects of vaccination. And about 40% of Israelis received the second dose of the vaccine.
Airport, restaurants, variants
According to the new measures to ease the restrictions that came into force on Sunday, schoolchildren will be able to resume their studies in person in areas of the country where the contamination rate remains low.
Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv – closed since the end of January except for cargo flights and special flights allowing a maximum of 200 people to return to the country per day – has seen its capacity increase to 1,000 travelers per day from New York, Frankfurt, Paris, London, Kiev, Toronto and Hong Kong. That number is expected to rise to 3,000 by midweek.