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Israel further eases virus measures for shops, restaurants

Israeli guards stationed by Jerusalem's Old City on the first night of Ramadan [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2020

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Israel continues to ease its Covid-19 lockdown, partially opening some shops, salons, restaurants and cafes in a bid to sustain the collapsing economy.

The Israeli government Friday approved new steps to ease its lockdown measures for retail and service businesses, in the hope of reinvigorating the collapsing economy.

While malls will remain closed, all other shops will be allowed to reopen if they follow strict measures such as limiting the number of customers on the premises, a joint statement from the prime minister's office and the finance and health ministries said.

Wearing face masks in public became mandatory earlier this month, and will also be required in stores.

Hairdressers and beauty salons will be permitted to reopen with client limits, while restaurants and cafes, which over the past weeks have been delivery-only, can start selling takeaway.

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Less than a week ago, Israeli authorities announced the reopening of certain shops including hardware stores.

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The new measures will come into effect at midnight Saturday and will apply until May 3, the statement said.

Also Friday, the government voted to provide support worth eight billion shekels (over £1.8 billion) to the self-employed and to small businesses.

Israel announced its first case of the novel coronavirus on February 21, and has since officially declared more than 14,800 cases, including 193 deaths.

The country took rapid measures to impose social distancing and has been in lockdown for weeks.

A poll published Friday in Maariv newspaper found 60 percent of Israelis surveyed had a favourable view of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's actions to prevent the spread of the virus.

But the same percentage thought his handling of the economy was poor.

Before the coronavirus crisis, Israel had an unemployment rate of around 3.4 percent, but that has jumped to around 25 percent since the shutdown.

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