JERUSALEM – Israel plans to begin slowly easing its latest coronavirus lockdown on Sunday, hoping that its rapid vaccination campaign helps to contain an outbreak accelerated by new variants.
A government statement released early Friday details the lifting of restrictions. People will no longer have to remain within 1,000 meters (yards) of home, national parks will reopen and restaurants can offer takeout. Workplaces not open to the public can also reopen.
Israel has launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination drives, inoculating more than a third of its population of 9.3 million in a matter or weeks. But the rate of new cases has remained high, in part because of more contagious variants from Britain and South Africa.
Israel has been reporting some 7,000 new infections a day, one of the highest in the developed world. Nearly 5,000 people have died, more than a quarter of them in January alone. There have been three nationwide lockdowns since the start of the pandemic.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging Israelis to get vaccinated, with a particular focus on people over 50. The rate of vaccinations has slowed recently, with some apparent hesitancy among Arab citizens, ultra-Orthodox Jews and younger people.