Israel may soon lift a host of new restrictions, including reopening amusement parks and allowing up to 3,000 people in stadiums, the country's coronavirus czar said Thursday.
Israel this week began the third phase of its lockdown exit, lifting a host of major restrictions, including some in place since September such as indoor dining, event halls and concerts. The restrictions are lifted for Green Pass holders who have received both vaccine shots or people who have recovered from COVID-19.
Prof. Nachman Ash told Ynet that coronavirus infection rate has not yet reached a point where Israel could change restrictions on public gatherings, but if the trend continues it would be possible as soon as next week.
"Conditions have not yet ripened to change guidelines on public gatherings at this point," he said, adding that "in all sectors we have reopened, we can potentially allow in greater numbers of people."
"For example, at restaurants we can go from 75% capacity to 90%, in soccer games we are mulling letting in 3,000 spectators instead of 1,500, while places that have yet to reopen - like amusement parks - could start operating partially," he added.
However, Ash stressed that all professional discussion on the issue will be held next week.
"We will have to see that there is no rise in infection as a result of the economy reopening, and also see an additional decline in the number of daily and serious cases," he said.
On the issue of allowing more flights in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport, Ash said that the main threat of resuming commercial air traffic is the risk of posed by foreign coronavirus variants, which could be imported.
"Until we find a solution to tracking travelers who are supposed to be in quarantine, I do not think we can reopen Ben-Gurion Airport beyond [what we've already reopened]," he said.
"I hope that within the coming weeks we will be able to do so. It all depends on if we will get more tracking bracelets, and if so, we will be able to expand the airport's operations in the coming two weeks. Anyway, I believe and hope that it would be safe to do so in several weeks' time."
On Wednesday, Health Ministry DG Prof. Hezi Levi said in an interview with Ynet TV that he hopes the restrictions will be lifted before Passover so Israelis will be able to celebrate the Jewish holiday in a traditional way.
Yesterday also saw coronavirus reproductive number drop from 0.95 to 0.90, a further sign of infections dropping among the general populace.
"I hope that the trend we have been seeing in recent days will continue," he said. "Undoubtedly there is a trend of stabilization in the basic reproduction number, there is a trend of a decrease in the number of new verified cases and a decrease in seriously ill patients," he added.
"These things are encouraging and are definitely worthy of professional discussions. We may be able to increase the number of participants in social events in open areas."