JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel lifted many of its coronavirus restrictions and began reopening its economy on Sunday, as the country’s vaccination campaign and the third national lockdown began to reduce infections.
Most elementary and middle school classes have reopened after a nearly two-month closure, along with museums, libraries, shopping malls and markets. There are still some restrictions on the number of attendees. The entire education system is expected to return to normal operation in early March.
Gyms, swimming pools, movie theaters and restaurants are reopening for people who have received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
Israel unveiled its plan to allow the vaccinated to attend cultural events, fly abroad and frequent restaurants and health clubs by using a “green badge” app on Saturday before the economy reopens. The launch of the application has been fraught with technical difficulties.
After reaching an agreement with Pfizer to exchange data by dose, Israel’s vaccine campaign became the fastest in the world in the last two months. Almost half of its population of 9.3 million have received the first dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. Almost 3 million have been shot second.
Israel has faced international criticism for largely excluding Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from its successful vaccination campaign. The dispute highlights the Palestinians’ dependence on Israel even as they fight to fight the pandemic on their own. Last week, Israel facilitated the transfer of the first 2,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.
However, the coronavirus is still spreading rapidly in Israel, and movement and assembly restrictions have been maintained since the government imposed a nationwide blockade in late December.
Israel has recorded at least 743,000 COVID-19 cases and at least 5,521 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year. His three blockades have paralyzed the economy and raised unemployment to more than 20%.