Israel’s parliament nixes government eateries coronavirus closure

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Israel’s parliament overturned Tuesday a sweeping government closure of restaurants aimed at quelling the novel coronavirus spread, saying it was not based on proven data.

The latest Knesset reversal of a government decree came after Israeli leaders said they were doing all they could to prevent a general lockdown amid a surge in COVID-19 infections in the country.

With Israel recording more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections a day in recent weeks, the government on Friday announced a new series of measures, including closing gyms and restricting restaurants to take away and delivery.

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Malls, public beaches, swimming pools, stores, museums, barbershops and other venues were to be closed on weekends.

The Friday decision also limited gatherings to 10 people in enclosed spaces and 20 in the open air, excluding in approved workplaces and for nuclear families.

Following the outcry of restaurateurs, who held stocks of perishable supplies, the government subsequently postponed implementation of the eateries closure to Tuesday.

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On Monday, the parliamentary oversight committee charged with coronavirus regulations decided to remove the limitations from beach and swimming pool access.

On Tuesday, the same committee, headed by a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, cancelled the ban on restaurants, accusing the health ministry of insisting on draconian measures that were not backed by scientific data.

The committee will discuss gyms and schools later in the week.

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Israel won praise for its initial response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but the government has come under criticism amid a resurgence in cases after restrictions were lifted starting in late April.

The country of some nine million people had recorded 52,687 confirmed cases by Tuesday morning, including 422 dead.