IKEA branch in Netanya, Israel
IKEA branch in Netanya, IsraelYossi Aloni/Flash90

After announcing late on Tuesday that it planned to reopen all of its Israeli stores, the IKEA chain has postponed its reopening by a day, due to opposition from the Health Ministry.

After consulting with its legal advisers, the company had concluded that since many of the items it sells are defined as “essential,” it can reopen without fear of repercussions, while adhering to the government’s Purple Tag regulations for the coronavirus period.

It planned to open only those departments that sell essentials such as: kitchenware and electrical fittings; lighting; food; bathroom fittings; mattresses; cell phones and related products. Several areas within the stores will remain closed – the restaurants, children’s sections, and upper-floor showrooms.

Responding to complaints from the Health Ministry, IKEA issued a statement saying that: “Out of a willingness to explain the justice of our position to the Health Ministry, we are delaying our reopening. We are confident the Ministry officials, who work day and night for the welfare of the country’s citizens, will recognize that it is possible to reopen our stores selling only essential items, due to the large surface areas within our stores, enabling the public to make its purchases safely.”

IKEA placed 600 of its 1,700 employees on unpaid leave during the country’s first lockdown in spring, and only 200 went back to work during the summer. Dozens were dismissed during that period, but hundreds of furloughed employees are now being brought back to staff the stores, though many more will remain on unpaid leave for the time being.