In Reversal, Israel to Keep Restaurants Open

July 21, 2020 Updated: July 21, 2020

JERUSALEM—An Israeli parliamentary committee has overturned a government decision and allowed restaurants to remain open despite new restrictive measures to try and quell the spread of the coronavirus.

The coronavirus oversight committee voted Tuesday to keep restaurants open as long as they maintain proper guidelines and appropriate social distancing between patrons. It marked the back-and-forth battle after the government ordered restaurants closed just a few days earlier and then postponed implementation after public pressure.

The government announced its restrictions after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “interim steps” were needed to avoid another general lockdown. Netanyahu has faced widespread criticism and protests in recent days over his government’s handling of the pandemic and the economic fallout from an earlier lockdown.

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A paramedic with Israel’s Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) national emergency medical service, swabs a boy for COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing site in the Israeli city of Lod on July 15, 2020. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP via Getty Images)
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Men stand clad in masks (due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic) at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on July 16, 2020. (Menahem Kahana / AFP via Getty Images)

But many of the measures, such as the closing down of beaches and public pools, have been scaled back in recent days amid an outcry that they were excessive.

The frequent reversals, however, have only sown frustration, confusion, and more public anger.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein condemned the parliamentary decision, saying it would endanger public health and likely lead to another lockdown.

By late May, Israel had largely contained its outbreak following a two-month lockdown. But cases have soared in the weeks since restrictions were lifted, with Israel reporting close to 2,000 new cases a day last week. At least 422 people have died since the outbreak began, with more than 52,000 reported cases.