Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv
Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv iStock

Coronavirus cabinet ministers this evening approved a new plan to open shopping malls, after a pilot conducted for 15 of them over the weekend brought tens of thousands of Israelis.

Under the new proposal, the number allowed to enter malls will be limited to one person per 15 square meters.

In the stores themselves, it was determined that in addition to the rule beginning with the main regulations, in stores with a size exceeding 150 square meters, the maximum occupancy will be in a ratio of one person to 15 square meters and without setting a numerical ceiling on the number of occupants.

Health Ministry Director Prof. Itamar Grotto addressed opening malls this morning at a meeting of the Knesset's Constitution Committee, and explained the Ministry's position.

"We have not reached the planned coefficient of infection but solutions must still be found that will allow us to move forward with the purple badge. The purple badge was fine and set correct epidemiological rules but the problem was public compliance and enforcement on the other side, so we decided to do a pilot to see how it works in conditions in relation to the increase in morbidity," Grotto noted.

He said, "As we planned the pilot we came to the conclusion that there are metrics that can be tested and there are corrections that can be made safer to operate the malls later on. We measure compliance with guidelines mainly by masks and distance. I believe in self-enforcement by business owners so there is a part for such enforcement, and some of the enforcement is by the authority and the police.

"We decided on a short pilot with the goal of reaching conclusions from which we can proceed. It is not that on Sunday we will remove the pilot or open all the stores, but following the lessons we will come up with a proposal to amend regulations where there will be a uniform distribution of people. If the pilot is successful, we will hold a discussion in the cabinet and we think it can be extended to all malls," he added.

Prof. Grotto added, "We do not insist on zero risks and this is also related to the general contagion. In my opinion there is no room for an intermediate stage and there is a connection to the morbidity situation because opening 200 malls is different from 15; it adds another penny which eventually becomes shekels, bringing us back to a situation that no one wants."

Committee Chairman MK Yaakov Asher commented: "The pilot examines whether the rules work within the mall complex. If we see over the weekend that self-enforcement is good and that the pilot succeeded in replacing the standard police and supervisory enforcement that is apparently not so successful, and the behavior was according to the rules, what is currently related to the R coefficient?

"At least you would present a plan that after an initial success phase goes up to 40 stores and then to 60, to give us an horizon. Reducing the reasonable amount of shopping in the country from 200 to 15 malls is an situation that calls for pressure that has indeed arrived. Something reasonable must be done," Asher argued.

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