Policy responses for Israel - HSRM


Policy responses for Israel

1.2 Physical distancing

Third general lockdown imposed from December 27

The final two weeks of December 2020 were characterized by an increase in the daily number of deaths (mean of 16 compared to an average of 8 in first two weeks of the month), in the daily number of confirmed patients with COVID-19 (above the mean of 2,500 per day), in number of intubated patients (above 140 – same number as two previous lockdowns) and in percentage of confirmed patients (4.5% of examinations).

Following yet another continuous rise in these key morbidity indicators in December, the government decided to reinstate lockdown measures for the third time even though the prevailing perception is that the country still has not completely exited the second lockdown. The current lockdown commenced on December 27 and will last for two weeks (minimum). This timeframe may be extended according to reassessment of the overall morbidity situation and government approval at the end of the two weeks following initial implementation.

The main numerical target for examining the effectiveness of the lockdown is to obtain a drop in the daily number of new infections from several thousand to below 1,000. This would make it possible to conduct routine life in accordance with the “traffic light” plan, as occurred during the second lockdown.

Among the main decisions for the third lockdown:
• Mobility restrictions: movement is limited to 1,000 meters from home. Exceptions have been made for individual sports, permitted workplaces, schools, vaccinations, equipping of essential services and products and other permitted activities like demonstrations, funerals, etc.
• Prohibition on staying in another person's residence (except for nuclear family).
• Recreation leisure and commerce are completely closed. Takeaway orders of food and other products are not allowed but deliveries are permitted.
• The education system functions normally regarding ages 0-6, and grades 1-4 and 11-12. Grades 5-10 are studying from home.
• Workplaces: the scope of businesses that do not accept the public was reduced by 50% from the current state. Workplaces that employ more than ten workers cannot have more than 50% of their normal workers in the workplace at any one time, or ten workers, according to whichever value is higher.
• Public transportation vehicles will be reduced to 50% capacity (capacity was at 75% before this lockdown).
• Gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and 20 people in the open air are permitted.
• Fines: NIS 500 for going more than 1,000 meters from home.
• Over time, an assessment will be made regarding a change or continuation in the lockdown guidelines and restrictions.

A tightening of the lockdown since January 7

Following a further increase in morbidity indices that reached 207 intubated patients (over 7% confirmed patients) and an average of approx. 50 deaths per day in the last two weeks, the government decided on January 5 to tighten the existing lockdown, which was regarded as too loose and ineffective. The strict lockdown will begin at midnight between January 7 and 8 and will last for at least two weeks – depending on morbidity indices.

The main changes in relation to the current, looser lockdown are as follows:
• All educational frameworks (day care centers, kindergartens and schools) will be closed, except for special education - regardless of the traffic light rating of each locality.
• Limits on gatherings will be tightened for up to five people indoors and up to ten in an open space.
• The number of jobs considered vital will be reduced.
• Professional sports, including the senior leagues, will be canceled - but Premier League teams will be able to train.
• Air travel will be allowed only for those who purchased airline tickets before the lockdown or for those getting an approval from a special committee.
• Those entering Israel from "dangerous countries", which have not yet been defined, will be transferred to isolation in hotels to prevent the spread of the British and South African mutations. They will only be able to leave isolation given that their tests came out negative.

26.1.21 - lockdown update: complete closure of borders

Considering the continuing rise in morbidity indices, the government decided on January 19 to extend the lockdown's duration for another ten days – until the end of the month. The government also approved aviation regulations requiring every passenger entering Israel to do a COVID test 72 hours before taking off for Israel. Despite the broad vaccination operation, there have not been decreases in the rate of confirmed infected adults as per January 26.

On January 25, the government decided to completely close the airport for at least six days, until the end of the third lockdown (except certain purposes such as medical treatment, a funeral of a relative, or legal proceedings). Senior public health professionals estimate that this period may be extended by a few more weeks until morbidity numbers decrease. The closure is intended to curb the spread of new mutations coming from abroad.

February 7, 2021 - Exiting the third lockdown

The government has decided to end the third lockdown began gradually removing limitations and restrictions as of February 7. At the time of the decision to ease the lockdown, all morbidity indices were even higher than the day the lockdown was initiated. The percentage of confirmed patients was 9%, compared to 4.5% of examinations. The number of intubated patients was 322 – more than double than at the beginning of the lockdown. The daily number of deaths was almost three times as high – an average of 47 a day (since the start of January) compared to 16. 

The main relaxations of the lockdown include:
• Mobility restrictions (limitation of 1000 meters from homes) were abolished.
• Prohibitions of staying in another person's house were abolished.
• Business activity: it is allowed to open businesses that do not accept crowds, e.g., hairdressers and beauty salons, as well as B&Bs for families.
• Restaurants: self-pickup of food is allowed.
• Nature reserves and national parks have reopened.
• As of February 11, face-to-face classes resumed for grades 1-4 in localities defined as green and yellow by the traffic light model as well as in some orange localities with a relatively low levels of morbidity and over 70% of the population aged 50+ that have been vaccinated.

The second phase of the exit strategy is expected to take effect on February 23 and includes opening street shops, gyms and cultural and sporting events. These next steps are predicated on the following: three million vaccines in a second dose, vaccination of 90% of those aged 50+, coefficient of infection of 1 or below, and less than 800 patients in critical condition. The third and final phase is expected to include restaurants and hotels. That phase could come to effect provided there are four million vaccinated in the second dose, a vaccination of 95% of those aged 50+, a stable and close to 1 infection coefficient and a stable number of patients in critical condition.

February 21, 2021 – Exiting the third lockdown (update)

The government approved the second phase of the exit strategy from February 21 (two days earlier than originally planned), even though not all of the conditions set on February 3rd for further relaxations were fulfilled. Three million residents have already received the second dose of the vaccine, and the coefficient of infection is below 1 (0.83). However, currently less than 90% of those aged 50+ have been vaccinated, and there are more than 800 COVID-19 patients in critical condition (838). 

As part of the second phase relaxations set on February 7, the education system is also continuing to reopen, now with fifth and sixth grades, as well as 11th and 12th grades resuming face-to-face studies – in authorized localities based on the traffic light plan, as was in the first phase mentioned above. Moreover, this exit phase of the lockdown saw the launch of the vaccine "green pass" campaign (see in section 3.1, details about the “green pass”).

March 17, 2021 – Exiting the third lockdown (third phase)

The government approved the third phase of the exit strategy on March 7, even though not all of the conditions set on February 3rd for further relaxations had been fulfilled. Nearly four million (3.8 M) had received their second vaccination dose, the coefficient of infection was stable and close to 1 (1.02) and the number of patients in critical condition was still in a downward trend. However, in all age groups above the age of 50, there was a lower vaccination rate with a second dose than the 95% goal that was set (this is still true in April 2021).

As part of the third phase relaxations set on February 7, the education system continued to reopen, now with seventh to tenth grades resuming face-to-face studies – in authorized localities (i.e. those classified as yellow and green based on the traffic light plan), as was in the first and second phases mentioned above. Other relaxations included the opening, and expansion, of the number of people allowed in educational establishments, places of worship, culture and sport venues and ballrooms – according to the green pass campaign.

Limits on gatherings in open (50) and closed (20) spaces for people without a green pass were also expanded. Moreover, non-essential services can welcome guests, there restriction on the number of passengers in a private vehicle was abolished as well as the obligation to conduct temperature checkups at the entrances to public buildings and places of business. In hospitals, the directive of limiting one visitor per patient was also abolished. There were also further alleviations regarding entering and exiting the country.

April 18, 2021 – Masks are no longer mandatory outdoors & extensively re-opening the education system

In light of the broad vaccination coverage, accompanied by low morbidity and mortality rates, throughout the country, the obligation to wear a mask an open areas has been abolished as of April 18. Wearing masks is still mandatory indoors. MoH still recommends wearing a mask in gatherings in open areas.

Additionally, the government has approved several regulations for the final relaxation of school limitations due to COVID-19. The education system can be reopened based on these requirements:
• Schools will be opened and on-site classes will resume for all grades, without limitations (capsules), and with no restrictions of teacher movements between classrooms.
• The informal education system and the higher education system will continue to operate in the existing format, with further relief to be examined after a week of implementation of the new regulations.
• A wide range of tests and monitoring will be activated in educational institutions to detect an early outbreaks of COVID-19. A verified infected student identification will require all students in the class and the teaching staff to undergo PCR tests before returning to routine instruction.

April 27, 2021 – Further relaxation of public health restrictions

As of May 6, several restrictions relating to gatherings and traffic in public spaces are to be lifted. All relaxations are subjected to government approval and morbidity and mortality rates.
• Occupancy restrictions in places operating under the green pass, including public transport and cultural and sports events, will be abolished. A green pass is still required to access these spaces
• Cinemas will be allowed to sell food and beverages (and are thus likely to reopen as they previously voluntarily shut due to the ban on food sales).
• Non-vaccinated people will be able to enter attractions inside closed spaces, including swimming pools and gyms.
• Gatherings at private events are to be permitted for up to 500 people in an open area and up to 50 in a closed space.
• Children and people who cannot be vaccinated are able to access amenities currently restricted to green pass holders via speedy PCR tests.

May 15, 2021 – Voluntary usage of the green pass

According to the green pass regulations, it is mandatory for non-essential businesses such as restaurants and hotels to require clients to hold a green pass to enter. However, any type of business is allowed to operate a green pass policy if it chooses to, including those deemed essential (such as workplaces). In such cases, people must provide one of the following documents:
• A green pass, vaccination or recovery from a COVID-19 infection certificates
• A negative result from a rapid test performed at the entrance to the business
For children under the age of 16 or people not eligible for vaccination, a negative antigen test result up to 72 hours after its performance (tests are free of charge for all residents). Babies up to one year old are allowed to enter without restrictions.

The operator of the business may (but is not obligated to) place a rapid test stand at the entrance. The stand will be operated by a testing body registered with MoH and its name appears in the list published on MoH's website. The rapid test result is valid for 24 hours only. Payment to the testing body running the tests on-site will be made by the business owners.
In addition, businesses are still obligated to operate under the purple badge rules (see “Relxation of measures: physical distancing” in 1.2 for more details). These include, among other things, limited capacity, physical distance and wearing masks indoors.


The second lockdown was partially lifted on Sunday, October 18, five weeks after it was imposed.

Nurseries/kindergartens resumed operations on October 25
Special education classes, children and youth at risk and boarding schools had been excluded from the second lockdown, and were conducted in a routine manner.

While the complete outline for opening schools is not yet clear, as of November 1st, 2020, grades 1-4 have resumed, but only partially with presence-based learning. Children study part of the time at school and part from home. The rest of the education system is currently scheduled to resume later with no clear date so far.

The government's strategy to lift more restrictions such as opening shops and restaurants, is based on morbidity rates rather than points in time. Therefore, there are currently no concrete plans to open retail, culture and sports places and restaurants.

Additional relaxations of the lockdown were taken in accordance with the decision of the Corona Cabinet. As of November 8, public areas such as beaches and national parks were open again. Additionally, businesses where customer contacts are limited to a one-on-one basis (driving lessons, beauty/hair styling salons, street shops and food stands, etc.) were able to open as well. The new regulation permits occupancy of up to 4 customers inside the business, while shopping complexes that contain over 20 stores or businesses have not yet been approved to open. As of November 11, there are not yet concrete plans for resuming face-to-face education for grades 4 and up.

16.11.2020 Further actions taken as part of the exit strategy

On November 16, the Corona Cabinet approved the resumption of fifth- and sixth-grade studies (expected to open on November 24). Face-to-face classes for grades 5 and 6 will only resume in localities defined as green and yellow according to the traffic light model or to the morbidity. On-site classes for grades 11 and 12 are scheduled to begin in early December, yet there is no decision on a fixed date.
Further actions regarding the lockdown exit strategy include the imposition of a local lockdown in a defined number of localities defined as red as well as the opening of open shopping complexes in green localities.

24.11.2020 Further actions taken in the education system as part of the exit strategy after the second lockdown

On-site learning for fifth and sixth graders resumed on November 24, as scheduled. High school (grades 10-12) was scheduled to resume on November 29, while middle school (grades 7-9) was scheduled to resume on December 6. These relaxations are only relevant for “green” and “yellow” municipalities – i.e., those with low rates of morbidity and infection. Furthermore, as of November 24, students in the first and second grades resumed presence-based learning with full occupancy of pupils – studying five times a week. All other grades are still operating in “capsules”, a half-class base – meaning one half of the class will spend at least two days at the classroom, while the rest of the time they will study from home. After this, the other half of the class replaces the first half in the classroom and the first half studies from home.

09.12.2020 Further actions taken as part of the exit strategy after the second lockdown

In spite of a continuing rise in COVID-19 morbidity indices, there appears to be no change in the government’s earlier plans. As of December 6, all grades have resumed studies in green and yellow localities, while early childhood studies and grades 1-4 have resumed in orange and red localities as well.

As of December 9, all shopping malls, markets and museums have opened.


The number of infected COVID-19 individuals has constantly increased since late May 2020, and has reached numbers of daily new cases similar to that of the March-April outbreak. On June 27 there were 621 new COVID-19 positive cases. The government restarted to impose lock-downs, currently in selected localized areas such as cities or neighbourhoods where the incidence of COVID-19 is particularly high.
On June 20, the Bedouin city of Rahat, Arara and Jaffa (predominantly inhabited by Arabs), and the city of Bat Yam were declared as “restricted” areas, meaning that schools should be closed and gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed until further notice, at least for two weeks.
On June 24, lockdown and curfew were imposed on several neighbourhoods in Tiberias and Elad (mostly inhabited by Ultra-orthodox Jews). Lockdown means that individuals are not to leave their homes, and curfew means that individuals are not allowed to enter or exit those areas except for urgent needs and going to work. (MoH Telegram channel; https://www.haaretz.co.il/health/corona/1.8943774) 
On June 26, several long-term care institutions were put on isolation because some caregivers were positively diagnosed with COVID-19. All residents of these institutions are being constantly tested and monitored.
Prior to imposing lock-downs, the Ministry of Health, along with the relevant agencies, took various steps to reduce morbidity by advocating, enforcing, and evacuating patients as much as possible. At this time, these measures appear to be insufficient to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in certain areas.

6.07.2020 – additional lock downs and back to restrictions on massive gatherings
1.6.2020: local lockdowns were imposed on several neighbourhoods in two big cities (Ashdod and Lod) until the 9th of July, due to the fast rise in COVID-19 cases in those cities. (https://www.haaretz.co.il/health/corona/1.8963386).
3.7.2020: New restrictions on massive gatherings
Due to the steep rise in daily new COVID-19 cases (up to 1,000 daily new cases, the highest incidence since the COVID-19 pandemic started in Israel), the government reduced the number of maximum people gathering. No more than 50 individuals are allowed to gather in temples, bars, weddings and clubs, and no more than 20 people in other closed areas such as sports and culture halls. Working places, shops and malls are excluded from this limitation for now.

6.07.2020 – back to physical distancing regulations
On July 6 the Prime Minister’s Office and the MoH decided to recommend new restrictions for the Knesset’s (Parliament) approval while simultaneously implementing other measures by executive order to combat the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Israel. Based on MoH recommendations, the government unanimously decided on the following restrictions, which will go to the parliament for full approval:
● Halls, clubs and bars will close. Clubs and bars located on hotel grounds will also close
● Restaurants will be limited to having 20 people maximum in enclosed spaces and 30 people maximum in open spaces. The same rule will apply to hotel dining establishments
● Gyms, public swimming pools and cultural shows will close
The following restrictions will be implemented by executive order by the MoH:
● Prayer houses will be limited to 19 people maximum, while other non-religious gatherings will be limited to 20 participants, 2 meters away from each other while wearing
● Only Kindergarten through fourth grade students will be able to attend schools, summer camps and organized youth activities. For children in fifth grade and older, the MoH must consult with the Minister of Higher Education on further decisions on educational activities
● Organized sports will only be possible without an audience (a continuation of the current policy)
● On buses, up to 20 people will be allowed to ride simultaneously, but the Minister of Transport can determine an alternate number with the consent of the MoH
● At least 30% of the government workforce will work from home, according to rules set by the Civil Service Commissioner

Source: https://www.gov.il/en/departments/news/01_06072020
Lockdowns on weekends and more physical distancing measures
Due to the increase in daily new COVID-19 cases, that averaged 1,700 during the last 5 days (12-16 of July 2020), the government approved additional restrictions to limit physical contact:
1. Gatherings were limited to up to 20 individuals in open areas and 10 in closed spaces including temples
2. Restaurants, sports halls and gyms are to close until further notice
3. Food deliveries from restaurants are allowed, as well as the functioning of restaurants inside hotels, but the number of people is limited to 35% of the maximum occupancy. Swimming pools in the hotels can also continue to operate without change.
4. Schools and day camps remained open for now, but might be shut down from Sunday (19.7.2020).
5. Government offices and services may operate online only, and only 50% of public employees are allowed to go to the office.
6. Lock-downs were imposed on weekends, e.g. from Friday at noon until Sunday morning [In Israel the working week is from Sunday to Thursday]. The meaning that all malls, shops, markets, pools, hairdressers, beauty salons and other businesses will be closed, individuals can circulate outdoors. Bathing beaches will also close on weekends from July, 24.
During weekend-lock downs, essential services may remain open: supermarkets, pharmacies and businesses that sell hygiene products, and optics.

Second general lockdown imposed from September 18
At the end of the first lockdown, from early May, 2020 until the end of June, 2020, the daily number of patients remained at several hundred. The number of intubated patients was stable at a few dozen, and the average number of daily deaths was below 1.5. Throughout the months of July to September, 2020, the number of confirmed patients has soared to over 1,000 per day, peaking at 6,000 on September 16. The number of intubated patients reached a similar figure to that two weeks after Israel went into lockdown in mid-April (140) and the number of deaths rose sharply to an average of 12 deaths per day. By comparison, during the month of April, the main month in which the first lockdown was implemented, the number of daily deaths was around 7.

Following the continuous rise in these key morbidity indices during the summer, and after numerous discussions, the government decided to reinstate the lockdown for three weeks (during Israel’s autumn holidays), with the possibility of extending it. According to various sources in the government and the professional control center for COVID-19 management, this period is the best time for the lockdown because: 1. This is the time when citizens tend to congregate in hotels, at prayer services, and at family gatherings; 2. There will be minimal damage to the economy due to the negligible economic activity at this time in relation to regular times.

The lockdown commenced on Friday, September 18, 2020 and continues through October 11, 2020. This timeframe may change according to reassessment of the morbidity situation and government approval at the end of the two weeks following implementation of the lockdown. Thus far, there were no clear numerical targets for examining the effectiveness of the lockdown, but the general goal set by various agencies, including the Prime Minister, were to contain the morbidity trends – a drop in the daily number of new infections from several thousand to several hundred, making it possible to conduct routine life in accordance with the “traffic light” plan, which classifies the local authorities in Israel in four groups – green, yellow, amber, and red, according to their morbidity indices. Each color determines the guidelines and restrictions on gatherings.

Among the main decisions for the lockdown:

• With the exception of tourism and commerce, the private sector will work normally, but will not receive the public, except for businesses providing essential services such as: selling food, medication, medical accessories, and hygiene products, and those providing communications, optics, and home maintenance products. The public sector will work with 50% of the workforce in the workplace at any given time. Supermarkets, pharmacies, and home deliveries will continue to work.
• The education system: Schools and preschools will be closed and will implement distance learning, with the exception of special education and youth at risk.
• Public transport: The service will be reduced and adjusted to the scale of activity in the economy – approximately 50%. Ben-Gurion airport will be exempt and people who have purchased plane tickets will be permitted to fly.
• Movement will be limited to 1,000 meters from home: Individual sport will be possible at any distance as long as no travelling is involved.
• The restriction of not going further than 1,000 meters from home will be lifted for various specific situations that have been given prior approval, such as: to obtain essential services such as medication and food, to receive medical treatment, social services or mental health care, to attend court hearings, to donate blood, go to a funeral, etc.
• Gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and 20 people in the open air are permitted.
• It is forbidden to spend time in the home of another person for any reason other than those permitted, such as helping an incapacitated person.
• Demonstrations: No restrictions are imposed on demonstrations. Residents are allowed to leave home to participate in a demonstration.
• Prayer service: Prayer services are allowed in small groups, the size of which is determined by the morbidity rate in the locality and the number of entrances to the building – up to 500 meters from home.
• Fines: NIS 500 for going more than 1,000 meters from home; NIS 5,000 for operating a business in violation of the regulations.

Further Lockdown updates from September 25
A week after the second lock-down was imposed in Israel, the government approved tighter restrictions. The following new guidelines take effect on Friday, 25.09.2020 at 14:00:
• Demonstrations: demonstrations can take place with no more than 20 individuals, who must not distance themselves more than 1000 meters from their homes. Demonstrators who do not keep their distance will be fined, after being warned about keeping their distance from police.
• Prayers: not allowed in closed places. Services can be conducted in open areas with no more than 20 individuals. An exception has been made for the holiday of Yom Kippur, where prayers will be permitted based on a special outline.
• It is forbidden to open businesses and workplaces that receive the public physically, including a market, fair or booth (including a food stand in the market).
• Public transportation will be limited (similar to the first wave)
• Private workplaces must be closed. Arriving to a workplace is allowed only for essential purposes, e.g. maintenance, security and salary payment; or if a workplace has been defined as “providing essential services and or products”. The public sector shall work in an emergency format.

After an upsurge in the daily number of diagnoses and the percentage of positive tests eventually peaking at 22% of all tests, the Corona Cabinet decided on a more careful and gradual exit strategy. The first mitigations took place when the daily number of diagnoses was 2000. The second phase of lockdown mitigations will begin when this number will reach 1000, and so on. Decisions regarding further restrictions and mitigations continue to evolve due to discussions in the Corona Cabinet as well as political pressure coupled with other public and media reservations and lack of trust in the government

The second lockdown will be lifted on Sunday, October 18, five weeks after it was imposed. However, the education system will not resume for the time being, and there is no clear plan to open schools while nurseries/kindergartens resumed operations on October 25.

19.4.2020 - alleviating the lockdown

On April 19th, following a decrease in the incidence of COVID-19 cases, the government has declared, alleviations on the lockdown imposed since March 25. The main change is the return of some economic activities and some freedom of movement - while maintaining physical distancing. Individuals are still urged to stay home and not move beyond 100 meters, except for sport and other important activities. Individuals are required to wear masks in public spaces, maintain hygiene norms, keep 2-meter distance. The alleviation measures are:
● Gradual return to work – 30% of the workforce is allowed to return to work (an increase from the 15% that were allowed during the lock-down). This measure alleviates particularly the sector of services, industry and production.
● Opening of shops in streets - shops are allowed to reopen if they are not located inside malls or markets, and if they belong to one of the sectors defined by the government: audio and communication, textile, computes, housing accessories, sports, books and media and more. Shops must keep physical distancing and hygiene measures such as a limited number of clients at a time, distance of 2 meters inside the shop, and constant disinfection of surfaces and hands.
● Individual sport activity - Sport activities in open areas, of up to 2 people and not further than 500 meters from home
● Worship and prayer – allowed in open areas only (houses of worship remain closed) and gathering of no more than 19 people. Individuals should pray 500 meters away from home, and keep 2 meters of distance.
● Education - Special education services (for disabled children) are allowed to operate in groups of up to 3 children, maintaining physical distancing between groups.
The government also declared a set of rules allowing businesses to return to normal work. Those able to comply with the rules can return to work as normal without special authorization from the state. (https://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3809032,00.html):
● Up to 2 employees per 20-sqrm
● Body temperature check before entering the office
● Employees should work with a fixed group of colleagues (as much as possible)
● No meetings with more than 8 people
● No group-lunches
● Employees aged 67+ should continue working from home
● Appointment of an employee responsible for keeping COVID-19 measures

25.4.20 - Further Easing restrictions on physical distance measures
● The regular education system to be reopened from May 4, gradually starting from kindergartens and lower primary education. Classes will be in a limited format, with no more than 10 children per class, and each child goes to school 3 days a week and continues home-schooling on the remaining days.
● All shops in open streets are allowed to reopen under restrictions. 
● Hairdressers, body care centres and all healthcare services are allowed to work, with special hygiene and distancing requirements.
1. Workers should work in regular shifts (the same group of workers in each shift)
2. Distance of 2 meters between clients
3. constant cleaning of surfaces
4. Physical barrier between cashier and clients
● Travel is allowed, yet highly not recommended. Individuals entering the country should self-quarantine for 14 days.
● prayers, and religious events such as funerals and marriages are allowed in gatherings of up to 19 people, only in open spaces

From May 3rd the regular education system has gradually reopened, with different rhythms for the different sectors:
● On May 3rd the Jewish public education (secular and religious), initially reopened grades 1-3 of primary education and grades 11-12 of the secondary education (https://govextra.gov.il/ministry-of-health/corona/corona-virus/guidelines/). Due to the short official notice for returning educational activities (announced on working day before the official start, on Thursday night, April 30), many schools were not properly prepared to reopen according to the distancing and hygienic requirements. Some municipalities have decided not to reopen their education system (amongst those, 3 of the 4 biggest cities in Israel) (https://www.themarker.com/news/education/1.8812766)
● Schools in the Arab-Israeli education system did not reopen due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the Israeli-Arab population, and will reopen as soon as the outbreak and the prevalence of COVID-19 is reduced (https://www.makorrishon.co.il/news/225735/).
● The Ultra-orthodox Jewish education system was resumed in a different way, initially older ages, for grades 7-12, while younger children will remained at home until schools reopen  (https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/.premium-1.8813851)

● Public and private workplaces can reopen. Conditions for re-opening (termed “purple badge” conditions) included the wearing of facemasks, adherence to strict hygiene rules and maintenance of hand-sanitizing stations, screening of employees and customers for COVID-19 symptoms and measurement of their temperature, and regulation of customer entry and site occupancy. Workplaces must self-identify as meeting these conditions and must appoint an individual within their organization as one accountable for monitoring and achieving compliance with “purple badge” requirements
● Public sector workplaces may return to full employment, while maintaining the "Purple Badge" physical distancing restrictions. Until this date, 3.5.2020, only vital employees in the public sector worked, while others were on leave. (https://www.haaretz.co.il/tmr/1.8815568)
● Employees older than 67 were allowed to return to work (https://www.haaretz.co.il/tmr/1.8815568)

Ease on physical distancing measures
On May 3rd, further physical distancing measures were relaxed:
● Movement restrictions (up to 500 meters from residence) were lifted, while physical distancing is still required.
● Meeting of first-degree family members was allowed
● National parks reopened
● From May 11, Individuals returning from overseas were not sent to quarantine at ‘hotels’ anymore, but have to self-quarantine at home.
● Libraries, shopping malls and markets reopened on May 7th with physical distancing regulations and ‘purple badge’ regulations.
● Childcare and Kindergartens returned in reduced capacity, on Sunday 10th of May
● Higher education campuses to reopen on the June 14, though frontal classes will not resume until summer term and education will remain through digital tools
Further alleviation of restriction on public life:
● The use of public parks and fitness facilities in open-space was allowed with no restrictions since May, 11.
● Shops in mostly Arab towns were allowed to reopen, as the prevalence of COVID-19 has dropped and these Arab towns are no longer outbreak focus. Nevertheless, shops must keep closed during the Ramadan nights.
● The number of daily tests has averaged at ~4,000 tests in the last two days, a drop from more about 11,000 daily tests done during mid April.

18.5.20 - back to (almost normal) public life

On May 17th the entire education system returned to normal operation. This means that children aged 0-6, and schools (primary up to high school) returned to full time operation, under physical distancing restrictions meant to reduce interactions between groups of children. Due to the short notice between the announcement and return to school, many municipalities/local authorities decided to postpone the return of the local education system in a few days. In municipalities/local authorities that were defined as outbreak of infections, schools will stay closed until the 1st of June (https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/.premium-1.8851012, https://www.gov.il/he/departments/news/14052020_02 ).
Train services will resume operations in the end of May (31.05.2020), in reduced capacity – specific plans are yet to be announced (https://www.gov.il/he/departments/news/14052020_02).
Beaches reopen officially for the public on the 20th of May, under physical distancing restrictions. (There were reports during the weekend (15-16.5) of many people going to the beach, even though they were officially closed).

● Starting from the 27th of May, further alleviation of COVID-19 restrictions are implemented. Restaurants, bars, swimming pools, hotels and various recreational and leisure activities such as youth movements, informal education activities, sports, culture, arts and crafts are allowed, with restrictions on number of participants and physical distancing and hygiene requirements. Hotels are allowed to operate as well.
● Restaurants and bars with up to 100 chairs are allowed to operate in full capacity. Those with more than 100 chairs are allowed to operate with 85% of their capacity. Client’s temperature is measured at the entrance.
● Starting from the 14th of June, social and cultural events in halls are allowed, under physical distancing restrictions and hygiene requirements. (https://govextra.gov.il/ministry-of-health/corona/corona-virus/guidelines/)
● Public transportation: train services will return starting from the 31st of May. MoH will limit number of passengers per train.

19.6.2020 - further alleviation of physical distancing restrictions
Cultural events with up to 250 people were allowed provided that attendees remain sit during the entire event, in designated chairs with sufficient distance between them (https://www.haaretz.co.il/health/corona/1.8933933).
Concomitantly, the increase of new daily COVID-19 diagnosed cases from 15 in late May (20.5.2020), to 307 in mid-June (19.6.2020) has risen concerns of a COVID-19 'second outbreak wave'. The National Knowledge Center to Combating COVID-19 has warned policy makers to be more cautious with lifting physical distancing restrictions. Accordingly, the fine for not wearing mouth masks outside home was increased to 500 NIS (about 120 Euros).

The mitigation phase of the responses to the pandemic includes many physical distancing measures adopted during March, with new measures adopted almost on a daily basis (see timeline below).
All education system facilities were closed as of March 12 and will remain closed at least until April 20. Schools (primary and high-school) and universities continued classes through digital platforms. Schooling for disabled people and informal education for children of 'necessary workers' (amongst others) have continued to operate. Some essential welfare facilities have continued to operate, e.g day care for the elderly, shelters, boarding schools for welfare population. Public transportation activities have been discontinued during the evenings and weekends, and day time services have been reduced to 25% of normal service.

The Government declared a lockdown starting March 25, (when there were about 2,500 diagnoses cases). The lockdown added several restrictions and legal sanctions to the former guidelines which had already closed all public and cultural venues, urged people to stay at home, reduced the number of workers showing up for work in the private and public sector. Up to 30% of workers or up 10 (the higher of the two) are allowed to arrive at the offices (except employees needed in crisis times). As of March 29, people are required to stay at home (except to go to work, buy food and medicine and other indispensable activities). Individuals are allowed to walk no more than 100 meters from their home. Mass gatherings of over 10 people is not allowed. Not adhering these emergency regulations is determined to be an offence that can be fined.

Migrant populations:
Among all migrant groups discussed here, living conditions often do not allow for the implementation of preventive measures; e.g. overcrowded housing limits the possibility for self-isolation and physical distancing; shared use of cooking and sanitary facilities by many persons sets limits to WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene).
Community representatives report that some migrants had to continue working, despite Covid19-related measures, due to pressure from their employers (incl, e.g., in prostitution).

- Stricter measures for populations that live in areas with higher rates of infection (1.4.20):

There are specific populations where the spread of the COVID-19 is faster that the average. These include ultra-orthodox Jews in specific cities and some Arab populations. Ultra-orthodox Jews are less connected to the main mass and social media where the MoH published its messages and information, therefore were less warned about the measures of physical distancing. Many of them do not have smartphones and did not receive SMS messages alerting if they were in touch with an infected individual, and therefore did not self-quarantine to the extent that other populations did. Moreover, ultra-orthodox Jews are characterized by large families (in 2017, the fertility rate was 7.1 children per women), a low socio-economic status, and crowded living conditions – elements that speed-up the spread of the virus even more. As a result, the prevalence of the COVID-19 among ultra-orthodox Jews is higher than that of the general population. On April 1st, the government approved special emergency regulations to implement stricter physical distancing measures in cities with high concentrations of ultra-orthodox Jews, and put them in curfew.
On April 12th, the curfew was expanded to ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods in big cities with high levels of incidence of the disease. For example, Jerusalem was divided into four areas and residents cannot leave their area.

7.4.20 - Special physical distancing for holidays season (Passover/Easter)

Holidays are critical occasions where families gather and potentially increase the spread of COVID-19 faster. In order to avoid that, the government declared on April 7, further restriction of movement in order to limit gathering on Passover/Easter. Individuals who live in towns with Jewish majority are forbidden to leave their towns from April 7 for three days. From the 8 to the 9 of April individuals are not allowed to leave home to buy food as well. In order to enforce this restricted measure, the army may put check-points between cities.
On April 13 another national curfew was declared and individuals are not allowed to leave their homes from April 14 to 16. Checkpoints were placed on roads to restrict movement of individuals between cities.

20.4.20 - Special attention for the Ramadan month

The Ramadan, will occur in 2020 between April 23 to May 23. During the Ramadan month, traditional Muslims gather to pray and to feast every night. This holiday represents a challenge for maintaining physical distancing among traditional Muslims. The MoH has launched a national campaign calling the Israeli-Arab Muslim community to celebrate the Ramadan with family members living in the same household only. In addition, the ministry and local authorities have reached out religious leaders to call their followers to avoid physical gatherings. Other measures have been planned such as the distribution of goods related to the holiday at home, so individuals do not have to leave home for errands.
Due to major concerns of an outbreak of COVID-19 among during the Ramadan month, Israeli-Arab religious leaders called their followers to pray by themselves at home and avoid gatherings even in open spaces despite the alleviation of the lock down on April 19, which allows prayers in open areas with up to 19 people (see description below).

22.4.20 - Retightening physical distancing and lock-down during Memorial and Independence Day, and during the Ramadan month

Memorial and Independence Day
On April 22, the government declared a total lockdown during the two consecutive national holidays, the National Memorial Day for war and terror victims and the Independence Day. This is the second lockdown implemented in Israel, after transition measures relaxing the previous lockdown were put in place on April, 19.

This second lockdown is short (from April 27-29) and prohibits individuals to walk more than 100 meters from home, prohibits movement between cities, roads will be blocked, public transportation will shut down, and shops shall close, including food shops. Memorial Day ceremonies will be held without crowds, and bereaved families will not be allowed to visit graves.  (https://govextra.gov.il/ministry-of-health/corona/corona-virus/guidelines/).

The Ramadan Month 
In order to avoid mass gatherings, the government has declared that during the Ramadan month (23.04.202-03.05.2020) shops in mostly Muslim settlements shall close daily from 18:00 until 03:00 of the following day (except pharmacies) (https://govextra.gov.il/ministry-of-health/corona/corona-virus/guidelines/)

The government will provide special funds for municipalities of majorly Arab cities in order to provide special services for the Ramadan month. Food vouchers will be distributed to low-income families, food baskets will be distributed to COVID-19 patients (and their families) at home, protective equipment such as masks and gloves will be distributed to the population. The aid is being provided after the government learned lessons from the policy implemented in ultra-orthodox Jewish cities during Passover holidays.

Two towns mostly inhabited by Arabs with high rates of COVID-19 incidence were put on curfew between are declared as 'limited areas' from April 17 to 25, similar to the policy implemented in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlements with high rates of COVID-19.

Timeline of the mitigation phase of the pandemic

From March 4, many containment measures were taken:
● International conferences in Israel were banned.
● Mass events and crowds were not allowed to include over 5,000 people.
● People who had returned from any destination abroad in the prior 14 days were prohibited from attending gatherings.
● Recommendation were issued to those aged 60 and over and those with chronic illnesses, to avoid congregations and contact with people returning from any destination abroad and with people with symptoms or people suspected of being ill.

On the March 10, it was announced that no events with more than 2,000 people may be held and visits to hospitals and seniors should be avoided.

On March 11, the following were announced:
● A call was issued to avoid gatherings of people in closed spaces. Gatherings of more than 100 people were prohibited by order.
● Health caregivers were allowed to gather only for work purposes and in groups not exceeding 15 people.
● Sports events were to be held without spectators.
● It is the responsibility of stores, malls and shopping centres to prevent overcrowding in their spaces
● Employers must prepare and allow employees to work at home, to the extent possible

12.3.20: Closure of schools until after spring holidays (at least 19.4.20)

● Expanded lockdown of the facilities of the entire educational system
● Mandatory closure of all public activities except sale of food not to be consumed on the spot, petrol stations, and pharmacies
● Lockdown of all culture and sports facilities, including playgrounds
● Services/ jobs listed in a “restricted list” required to shut down, unless home office is an option. The list includes retail, restaurants, dentists (elective treatments) elective health or body care, such as hairdressers, nail salons, tattoo salons, restaurants.
● Reduced public transportation and recommendation to avoid unnecessary use of public transport
● Gatherings of over 10 people are prohibited, including in places of prayer and for religious ceremonies
● Visits not not allowed to welfare institutions, nursing homes
● Workplaces asked to incentivize work at home, but can remain opened provided that employees remain at least 2 meters apart.

● Court activities substantially reduced and working on a limited format;
● Recommendation of no more than two passengers travelling in a vehicle

● Mandate to public sector to operate in an emergency format
● Mandate to private sector to operate in a limited format
● Public transportation reduced substantially
● New IDF guidelines instruct soldiers to be prepared to stay at the base for one month. (Moreover, since there is no or very limited public transportation, movement in and out of bases is limited.)

● Public transport activities discontinued during evenings and weekends
● The Ministry of Health issues new guidelines to the public and announces that homes should not be left except in situations that require it. People are allowed to stock up on food, for the benefit of medical services or work - according to set conditions/criteria. Under the new guidelines, parks, malls, beaches, nature reserves or other public spaces are closed. At-risk populations are advised to avoid leaving home as much as possible, except for essential services – but this is non-mandatory

● The government approves emergency regulations that allow restriction of movement, to be enforced by authorities. Individuals are requested not to leave home except for necessary purposes (buying food, medicines or helping a family member). Work is allowed in establishments listed in the “restricted list”, but failing to comply is not considered a criminal offence
● Opening certain businesses listed in the “restricted list” determined to be a criminal offense
● All houses of worship closed, only prayer in open spaces is allowed.

25.3.20 - Stricter emergency regulations approved for 7 days:
● Individuals allowed to leave home only as far as 100 meters;
● Failure to comply with regulations is determined to be a criminal offence, enforced and fined by police officers.

● Collective prayer in open areas is no longer allowed
● Weddings are not allowed anymore
● Funerals and other religious ceremonies were limited to 10 participants
● Employers must reduce their current workforce (about 30% of the regular employees) to 15% unless proven that cannot operate with 15% of workforce; the public sector must reduce its workforce from 30% to 20%.

● Facial mask use is now mandatory in public spaces. In attempt to cope with the shortage of facial masks, MoH published a video on how to produce one at home.
● Israelis returning from abroad will be quarantined in motels for two weeks
● Curfew on cities with higher rates of prevalence of COVID-19 (usually cities where most of the population is ultra-orthodox)

Wearing masks in public places became mandatory, with the exception of children under 6, when driving, and at work when there are only 2 people in the same room keeping the 2 m distance.