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Israel: Ministers lift weekend virus rules, said to back more air travel by mid-August

The so-called Coronavirus Cabinet has decided to lift the weekend restrictions on commerce after health officials determine the rules don’t effectively drive down COVID-19 infection rates, according to Hebrew media reports.

The senior ministers also decide to resume air travel and “reopen the skies” by August 16, in a move hinting that border entry requirements will be relaxed for non-Israelis, who have been barred from the country for months.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favored reimposing a lockdown but was met with pushback by coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, with most ministers siding with the senior health official, the reports say.

The ministers also agree that enforcement of health rules in highly infected areas would be stepped up.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is reaching out to associates of new coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu in a bid to press him to adopt the premier’s own preference for lockdowns and other far-reaching restrictions, Channel 12 news reports.

According to the unsourced report, Netanyahu is concerned Gamzu’s stance toward the pandemic could lead to apathy among the public and he’s, therefore, seeking to pressure him to support stricter limitations.

Since taking up his post, Gamzu has pledged to end “illogical” restrictions and expressed opposition to lockdown measures, warning of their health, economic and social costs.

The network also reports that Netanyahu has reached out to former finance minister Moshe Kahlon about overseeing the economic aspects of Israel’s response to the virus.

Quoting an unnamed source familiar with Netanyahu’s proposal to Kahlon, the report says the prime minister’s offer is an effective vote of no confidence in Finance Minister Israel Katz.

Source: TOI