Israel’s coronavirus Cabinet unanimously decided on Sunday that the next stage of the government’s exit from nationwide lockdown will begin on Nov. 1, according to a statement on Monday by the Prime Minister’s Office.

During this 14-day stage, the start of which will be contingent on the COVID-19 morbidity rate, children in grades three and four will return to classrooms in capsules, while grades one and two will be divided in half with children attending classrooms on alternate days of the week.

Education Minister Yoav Galant will formulate a full plan for the education system after the Finance and Health ministries, with the assistance of the National Security Council, clarify the issues of afternoon daycare and transportation, as well as the areas of commerce to be opened in the next stage, which they are scheduled to do by Tuesday.

Discussions on the rest of the exit plan and the content of each of its phases are ongoing, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the Ministerial Committee on Defining Restricted Zones on Sunday night approved the recommendation of both the Health Ministry and Coronavirus Project Coordinator Ronni Gamzu to declare the Druze town of Majdal Shams—in the southern foothills of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights—a restricted zone. The decision was made due to the community’s COVID-19 morbidity rising for five days in a row.

In a joint statement, the PMO and Health Ministry said that the local lockdown will go into effect at 6 p.m. on Monday and last until 6 p.m. on Saturday.

At the start of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the pandemic at home and abroad.

“The world is being inundated with a powerful wave [of coronavirus cases], and we see this in Europe,” he said. “It is heart-rending.”

Many world leaders “now understand that [the Israeli government’s lockdown] decisions … led to a significant reduction and a dramatic decline in the scope of morbidity in Israel,” he added.

‘I wish our scientists success’

Netanyahu went on to warn however that for Israel to maintain its achievements in this regard, “we must stick to a gradual and responsible exit, and not open up too fast,” despite the difficulties the lockdown has imposed on many Israelis.

“I am familiar with the difficulties faced by businesses, the self-employed and families and parents,” he stated. “Therefore, I first ask for your continued cooperation, which has led to this result.” He emphasized that all government directives must be adhered to—“not just masks and distancing, but [all] Cabinet directives.”

A proposal to increase fines for violations, “so that everyone, without exception, across Israeli society, honors the agreements,” will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval, he said.

This, he said, “is not aimed at any [particular individual or group]; it is aimed at the virus … on behalf of the health of us all.”

Referring to the news that the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) is scheduled to begin human trials of its BriLife SARS-CoV-2 vaccine as early as next week, Netanyahu said, “I wish our scientists success.”

At the same time, he said, “I am working to bring vaccines from abroad because we need to allow ourselves to be ready for progress on the issue of vaccines, which in the end is the way to delimit the disease and take control of it, as happened with other pandemics.”

According to Health Ministry data, Israel’s morbidity rate stood at 2.8 percent on Sunday, down from just over 15 percent at the height of the “second wave” of the virus.

As of Monday afternoon, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel since the start of the pandemic stood at 310,254, 14,002 of which were considered active. There were 510 patients in serious condition, with 205 on ventilators. Since the onset of the pandemic, 2,404 people in Israel have died of the disease.

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