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In another U-turn, government drops plans to impose Hanukkah restrictions

Instead, ministers said to agree that when daily caseload hits 2,500 or basic reproduction rate climbs to 1.32, businesses will be shuttered and schools in virus hotspots closed

By TOI STAFF
December 10, 2020

In its second apparent policy reversal in under a week, the government has dropped its plan to impose additional pandemic restrictions over the Hanukkah holiday, and will instead tighten health rules when the number of daily cases hits 2,500, according to Hebrew media reports on Thursday.

The decision came after ministers in the so-called coronavirus cabinet protested the plan to ban Israelis from visiting other people’s homes during the evening hours of the eight-day holiday, which begins on Thursday night. It was unclear how police would have enforced such an order at any rate, as they cannot legally enter homes without a warrant.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to scrap the Hanukkah rules following consultations with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, according to Channel 12. Another proposal to impose a nightly nationwide curfew was similarly abandoned earlier this week after facing legal obstacles.

Reports said the senior ministers had agreed that when the daily caseload hits 2,500 or the basic reproduction rate of the virus (measuring how many people on average every infected person infects) hits 1.32, all businesses that accept walk-in customers will be closed; schools in high infection areas will be shuttered; and public transportation will be reduced to 50 percent capacity. The basic reproduction rate is currently at 1.26.

Such restrictions would remain in force for three weeks, but if the transmission rate of the virus remains high Israel may need to enter another full nationwide lockdown, Edelstein was quoted saying.Jerusalem residents wearing a face mask shop for grocery at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on December 10, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Daily infection numbers were at 1,849 on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said Thursday, the second time this week that the daily caseload has been over 1,800 and, alongside Monday’s 1,854 cases, the highest rate since October.

Of the 15,997 active cases, 321 people were in serious condition, 94 of them on ventilators. Over 72,000 tests were conducted on Wednesday, with 2.5 percent returning positive.

The death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 2,937.

Thursday is the first night of the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah, which is often marked by extended family get-togethers in the evening for traditional candle-lighting events. The government has consistently attempted to impose restrictions over holidays throughout the pandemic, fearing that gatherings will bolster the spread of the virus.

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