The Israeli government on Thursday decided to delay the approval of a nighttime curfew for the holiday of Hanukkah until coronavirus infection in the country increases further.
Ministers reconvened in the morning hours after they failed to reach an agreement during a meeting Wednesday on tightening of coronavirus restrictions across Jewish municipalities on Hanukkah, and across Christian localities for the holiday of Christmas.
The government was due to approve a ban on all movement between cities as well as almost all trade from 5:30pm for the duration of the festival but after strong opposition from some ministers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz agreed to postpone the move.
Instead, the government will impose "tight restraint" on the country if the number of daily cases reaches 2,500 or the coefficient of infection rises to 1.3. As of Thursday, Israel stands on the verge of 2,000 new daily coronavirus cases after officials posted 1,828 new diagnoses, which had been confirmed the previous day.
At the moment, there appear to be no changes in the guidelines with congregations allowed with up to 10 people in confined spaces and 20 in open areas. The education system also has not been affected.
"We will give up the issue of further restrictions for the coming week," said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. "We will continue the awareness campaign not to host other people on Hanukkah. We would like to make the position of the Health Ministry clear - when infection coefficient (R) reaches 1.32 or when there will be 2,500 daily infected, we will tighten the curbs for a period of 3 weeks," he said.
"If after three weeks, R goes down below 1 we will not continue restrictions. If it stays the same, will have to implement a lockdown."
At the start of the debate, which was adjourned after Prime Minister Netanyahu had been forced to leave to attend a ceremony, many ministers expressed opposition to the Health Ministry's outline.
Finance Minister Israel Katz demanded for the hour of the potential nighttime lockdown be moved from 5:30pm to 6:30pm or 7pm. "The proposals would cause severe damage to tens of thousands of business owners in the trade sector who have just returned to full activity and to hundreds of thousands of people who will return to the cycle of unemployment," said Katz at the meeting.
The Health Ministry's outline stated that Israelis will not be allowed to visit other people's homes during the holiday, with celebrations limited to nuclear family members. Those violating the order by visiting other people's homes will be fines NIS 500.