Thursday’s lifting of restrictions is the first step in what is expected to be a drawn out, weekslong easing of the strict lockdown — a stark contrast to the rapid reopening Israel undertook after its first lockdown in the spring.
“We must get out (of the lockdown) in a gradual and responsible way. Carefully. Otherwise we will find ourselves within a short time in a third lockdown,” Netanyahu said in a speech to parliament after the vote. He cautioned that the easing of further restrictions was contingent on numbers of new virus cases continuing to drop.
Israel was lauded in the spring for taking decisive action to stem its first wave, even though its economy was hard-hit by the lockdown and unemployment skyrocketed. But after a hasty reopening and what has been criticized as government mismanagement of the crisis, its outbreak soared to new heights.
Netanyahu's popularity has plummeted over his handling of the crisis and large protests against his rule have been taking place for weeks, with demonstrators calling for his resignation.
Israel has recorded more than 253,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, with more than 2,100 deaths.