A senior Health Ministry official said Wednesday the next phase of the exit from the nationwide lockdown will likely be postponed by three weeks due to increasing coronavirus infection rate.
The cabinet tasked with battling the pandemic was set to convene later in the day to vote on the third phase of the exit plan, which includes reopening of malls, open-air markets and gyms as well as bringing back to school children in fifth and sixth grade. The majority of ministers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are expected to back the postponement of the third phase.
In an interview with Ynet, Health Ministry's Head of Public Health Services Sharon Alroy-Preis said it is too soon to ease the restrictions any further.
"If we decide to reopen without looking at what is happening with the pandemic, we will be in over our heads," she said.
"The plan is based on reopening according to infection indicators and we are not currently at the stage that allows for another easing of curbs. The plan was built with a lot of thought to make sure we do not reach a third wave and we have to stick to it."
Dr. Alroy-Preis said the third phase of the lockdown exit is meant to begin when the coefficient of infection drops to 0.8. As of Wednesday, the coefficient stands at 0.92.
"It may take some time to get to the third phase and I do not think it will help the State of Israel or the citizens or the economy if we rush it. It may take more than a week," she said. "If you're asking me if it'll take a week, two weeks, three weeks - I can not give an estimate."
She added the so called "Traffic Light" program, introduced by coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu, is not relevant at this stage when the infection is still relatively high.
"If stores in green cities [with low infection rate] are open, what prevents people from orange cities to come to green cities and shop there? Right now, it will only result in movement of people from a place with a high infection rate to a place with a low infection rate."
Finally, when asked about final stage of the exit plan, which involves reopening of restaurants, bars and event halls, Alroy-Preis said it is definitely not going to happen in the coming weeks but talking about months of closure would be "excessive".