Finance Minister Israel Katz demanded on Thursday during a coronavirus cabinet meeting to reopen street shops by next week, claiming it makes no sense for beauty salons to reopen while the trade industry remains shut.
Israel's coronavirus cabinet's convened in the morning hours to discuss further easing of lockdown curbs. The ministers earlier this week voted to reopen "one-on-one" treatments and schools for grades 1-4 from November 1.
According to Katz, small businesses that have been shuttered during the second nationwide lockdown are facing imminent, financial danger.
“Massage parlors and personal treatments are allowed while street shops are on the verge of collapse,” said Katz at the start of the meeting. “[The Health Ministry] wants to push 80,000 people below the poverty line.”
Katz accused the Health Ministry of operating with lack of transparency and being out of touch with the public.
"Small business owners have been turned into enemies of the state because they lack a strong lobby. I will not give up fighting for them with all my might, to allow them to return to activity immediately. "
Despite Katz’s insistence, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said he is not prepared to allow stores to reopen, since health officials believe the original exit strategy outline - drafted by Head of Public Health Services Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price - should be adhered to.
According to that outline, the reopening of businesses will be part of the third phase, planned for mid-November.
At the start of the meeting the ministers voted on the final outline for the reopening of grades 1-4. According to the outline proposed by Education Minister Yoav Galant, students will study for four days a week in groups of 18 students.
The outline was strongly opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who claimed in-class studies should be conducted only three days a week. He said his assessment is based on consultations with the Health Ministry and the local government center.
The head of the Teachers' Union, Yaffa Ben David, called the outline a "disaster".
"We are all confused and frustrated, we go to bed with one outline and wake up with another," she said. "It will be a big mess on Sunday."