Israel relaxes coronavirus lockdown

Israel on Sunday relaxed some of its lockdown measures aimed at preventing a further spread of the novel coronavirus, news wires reported. Thirty per cent of employees are now allowed to get back to their workplaces, compared to 15 per cent before. Sport is now allowed within a radius not of 100 metres, but of 500 metres around homes, and only in pairs. Face masks are still mandatory. Anyone caught in the streets without a mask risks a fine of 200 Israeli shekels ($56).

Caretaker PM Benjamin Netanyahu said late on Saturday that the relaxation was possible because the spread of the virus was slowing down. Israel was better off than other countries, he told a televised news conference. "We have one of the lowest death rates," he said. Netanyahu's cabinet approved the measures in a video conference meeting.  In addition to food shops, shops selling electric items, office equipment and books are allowed to reopen. Large shopping malls remain closed. Special education schools can reopen, but with up to three pupils in one classroom. Until kindergartens reopen, families may look after small children of up to three other families.

The new rules will initially last for two weeks. Among Israel's population of 9m, 13,362 people have now been confirmed positive with coronavirus, of whom 3,564 have recovered. The Health Ministry announced 171 deaths.

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