Israel on Sunday reopened swathes of its economy in what it called the start of a return to routine enabled by a COVID-19 vaccination drive that has reached almost half the population.
While shops were open to all, access to leisure sites like gyms and theatres was limited to vaccines or those who have recovered from the disease with presumed immunity, a so-called "Green Pass" status displayed on a special Health Ministry app.
On Saturday a rush of Israelis to obtain the pass caused the Health Ministry website to crash.
Social distancing measures were still in force. Dancing was barred at banquet halls, and synagogues, mosques or churches were required to halve their normal number of worshippers.
Coming exactly a year after Israel's first documented coronavirus case, Sunday's easing of curbs is part of a government plan to open the economy more widely next month, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is up for reelection.
Israel has administered at least one dose of the Pfizer Inc vaccine to more than 45% of its 9 million population, the Health Ministry says. The two-shot regimen has reduced COVID-19 infections by 95.8%, ministry data showed.
The country has logged more than 740,000 cases and 5,500 deaths from the illness, prompting criticism of the Netanyahu government's sometimes patchy enforcement of three national lockdowns. It has pledged that there will not be a fourth.
1.1 million Elementary schoolers and pupils in the last two years of high school will return to class on Sunday in Israeli towns found to have contagion rates under control. They will be at school for only four days before the Purim Holiday break while Middle schoolers are only due back by next month, after almost a year of remote learning.
Parents are outraged at the fact that malls and shops will be opened while their middle school children are made to remain home and learn remotely. Some said they keep would ban zoom classes and plan to conduct classes later in the week inside a Tel Aviv and a Jerusalem shopping mall, in protest.
First published: 07:17 , 02.21.21