Netanyahu: Israel Almost Done with Coronavirus Closures

Lockdowns are set to become a thing of the past for Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday as more venues reopened as part of the government’s coronavirus exit plan.

Netanyahu’s remarks came amid an ongoing vaccination drive. So far, almost five million Israelis — out of a population totaling 9.2 million — have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and 3.8 million have received both.

The contagion rate has dropped dramatically from 11 percent in January to 4.3 percent.

While Health Ministry officials have not confirmed Netanyahu’s prediction Israel has entirely emerged from closures, they said on Sunday evening another lockdown before the March 23 national election was highly unlikely.

This follows earlier remarks by coronavirus czar Nachman Ash who told an Israeli radio station the “possibility of reverse measures certainly exists.”

People eat at a restaurant in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv after authorities reopened restaurants, bars and cafes to vaccinated “green pass” holders.  Israel took another step towards post-pandemic normalcy, with about 40 percent of the population fully inoculated against the coronavirus. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

“We may have to decide to do this before the election, certainly,” Ash said.

On Sunday, cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, event halls and other venues reopened. Some of them, like concert halls, are using the government’s newly launched “Green Pass” system, only allowing entry to people who have either been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19.

“Restaurants are coming back to life,” Netanyahu said, according to remarks carried by the Reuters news agency.

Netanyahu, who is on the campaign trail, shared pastries and a photo op with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion at a café in a Jerusalem park.

“We still have to watch ourselves, we have to wear masks, keep distances that people require, social distances — but we’re coming out of it, and there’s not much more,” he said.