Israelis Have Left the Coronavirus Lockdown Behind, and There Is No Going Back

On Sunday morning, for the first time in over a month, there were traffic jams on the Ayalon Freeway going into Tel Aviv. Police, who remained a presence at highway checkpoints at some locations around the country, looked helpless.

Israelis had voted with their feet, or more literally with their cars, and as a practical matter, the lockdown that the country had been under in response to the coronavirus pandemic was over. The country was shifting to a new stage in the efforts to deal with the virus.

– Bibi’s got the perfect exit strategy – just not for the coronavirus

Bibi’s got the perfect exit strategy – just not for the coronavirusHaaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the nation on Saturday evening in which he announced plans to loosen some of the stringent health regulations was followed by a cabinet meeting in the middle of the night, which resulted in their approval with some modifications. This marked the crossing of the Rubicon. Cabinet members and ministry officials may think they are in control of the situation through their statements and directives, but in practice, the public is already preoccupied with the day after, calculating their own exit strategies from the crisis.

>> In English: Easing of coronavirus restrictions in Israel

The coronavirus is a real presence in our lives and apparently will remain so for a long time to come, but from the moment the announcement was made Saturday evening of the plan to significantly ease the lockdown, as the public had expected, it’s hard to imagine a way back to those limitations.

Things are happening quickly. All of a sudden, the daily toll in lives that COVID-19 has been exacting was pushed to the sidelines. People were talking about it as if it were simply another common cause of death, such as cancer or other illnesses. Instead, the attention was focused on the increasing economic cost that the virus was inflicting.

A major psychological shift is occurring that is a bit reminiscent of a cease-fire following a military campaign. The government is still telling the public that they need to exercise caution and that new limitations are still a possibility, but they are already preparing for peacetime.