JERUSALEM – Israel took another step toward normality on Thursday by lifting restrictions on the movement of people and reopening marketplaces, gyms and shopping centers.
Less than a month ago, the streets of Jerusalem were completely deserted, the memory of the smells, colors and noises of this vibrant city becoming ever more distant.
Today, with a total of 239 deaths recorded since the beginning of the outbreak and with the infection rate under control, the country has restarted almost all of its regular activity.
Almost twice as many people have recovered from COVID-19 than the number of people who currently have it, which is just over 5,370.
Business activities have got underway again at the Cinema City mall, not far from the Israeli Parliament.
“I’m really pleased to be back, I couldn’t take being at home anymore,” Eliran, a hairdresser, tells EFE as he dyes the hair of the only customer in the salon.
He adds that coming back to work was difficult, not necessarily because of the social-distancing protocol in place but rather because there were very few customers and little work.
There are no more than 30 customers on Cinema City’s main floor, less than the number of employees tending the few shops that have reopened.
The impeccable garbage cans, with their new bags, the shiny floors, the food shops overflowing with products and optimism, empty stores and perplexed visitors give the image of a shopping center opening for the first time.
Barak, who works at a pizzeria, has sold almost nothing so far on his first day back, despite producing “the same amount as before the crisis.”
He hopes the situation improves, adding that before reopening the shop the business had focused on its delivery service and that it had worked well.
Restaurants are still not permitted to accept seated customers and can only offer takeaways.
The cinemas, the mall’s main attraction, as evidenced by the name, are to remain closed until further notice, which could go some way to explaining why many of the shops have decided to remain closed for the time being too.
A couple of minutes walk from Cinema City is the Lazuz gym, which opened its doors again on Thursday.
Gym-goers went about their business as though the coronavirus never existed, without paying attention to social-distancing rules and taking turns on machines without using disinfectant.
A prime example of the pandemic fading like a bad memory, however, was the resumption of activity at West Jerusalem’s emblematic Shuk market.
Even the street musicians were back, a final jig-saw piece to bring the area back to life after two months being put on mute.