Wall Street Journal:
Israel’s second coronavirus lockdown has been less stringent for individuals and more widely flouted than its first.
The surprise: It seems to be working.
Infections are dropping sharply despite less stringent rules and more defiance of them, likely because of more widespread use of masks, epidemiologists say
As many countries across Europe impose new restrictions amid surging Covid-19 cases, Israel is gradually starting to emerge from its lockdown, which began in mid-September.
New infections in Israel peaked at the start of October at about 9,000 reported cases daily, or about 100 daily new cases per 100,000 people, in line with current levels in countries like France. On Thursday, with schools and most businesses still closed, the daily case count was hovering near 700.
“The second lockdown was much less tight than the first. But the data was surprising,” said Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He and other epidemiologists say an important reason for the sharp reduction in new infections was an increase in mask-wearing.
This autumn, businesses faced stricter limits than in the spring. Only essential businesses were allowed to remain open. Most others have been ordered closed, though a minority are reopening on Sunday. Individuals, on the other hand, had more freedom. They have been allowed to go out for exercise, whereas in the spring they needed to stay within 100 meters of their homes.
People have been required to wear masks whenever they are outside their homes, except during exercise. The second lockdown is also unwinding far more slowly than the first, with the government laying out at least six separate stages of opening, each contingent on holding infections in check.
The new round of restrictions has carried a significant economic cost, shaving about a third off national economic output each week in its initial weeks, according to the Bank of Israel, the central bank. Unemployment has risen to 14.6%, according to the Israeli Employment Bureau.