Israelis pack bars, restaurants to celebrate New Year’s Eve despite new restrictions
The Israelis packed bars and restaurants across the country on Friday night, determined to celebrate the New Year despite the rise in COVID numbers and new restrictions aimed at limiting the celebrations.
Many young people said they were not concerned about the prospect of catching the virus, noting that they were vaccinated and citing the belief that Omicron was not as bad as previous strains.
“I’m vaccinated, so I’m not worried,” Uriel Shiskin told the Ynet news site from a bar in Tel Aviv. “Get vaccinated, get out, live and you will be fine.”
“Even if we get, it will be sweet,” said another party animal, identifying himself as Rotem.
Others said they were taking precautions.
“We were a little worried about going out, but we said we were going to find a low-traffic place where we could sit outside and not give up going out,” Neta Ofir, 22, told Ynet. “We want to relax a bit and celebrate. “
Israeli authorities on Thursday imposed new restrictions on gatherings that appeared designed to avoid a dreaded spike in new cases fueled by New Year’s revelers spreading the ultra-contagious variant of Omnicron.
Ministers approved rules requiring a green pass for outdoor cultural or religious events with 100 or more people, and the head of the health ministry signed a directive returning a mask mandate on outdoor gatherings half that size.
Previously, only outdoor gatherings of 1,000 or more people required a Green Pass, which is given to those who are fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from the virus. Unvaccinated participants must present a negative COVID-19 test.
Israel lifted the mandate for outdoor masks in April and only recommended that they continue to be worn at large gatherings. The new rules will now require them to have gatherings of 50 or more people.
However, large outdoor gatherings in Israel to celebrate the New Year are unusual.
Although many Israelis mark the arrival of the New Year, it is a much more low-key event than in Western countries and there is no local equivalent to the release of the ball in Times Square or the fantastic ones. fireworks in capitals around the world.
Unlike the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, in the fall, New Years Day is not an official holiday in Israel.
Many Israelis refer to New Years Eve as “Sylvester” – a term also used in some European countries, which refers to the 4th century Pope Sylvester I, who died on December 31.
Many of the 1.6 million Israeli immigrants to the former Soviet Union and their deceased traditionally mark “Novy God,” or New Year in Russian – a day celebrated from December 31st that includes holidays and meetings of family.
As in Israel, concerns over the pandemic limited New Year’s Eve events in major cities around the world, although others continued like any other year.
Despite the restrictions, many noted it was even better than last year, when the Israelis marked the New Year under lockdown with thousands of police deployed across the country to prevent rallies.
This year, the Israeli government has sought to avoid movement restrictions common in previous waves of the virus, relying instead on high vaccination rates and a robust booster program.
This concern about the New Year’s Eve causing more cases comes with new data from the Health Ministry on Friday morning showing infection rates continue to rise, with nearly 5,000 new cases diagnosed on Thursday.
The virus’s baseline reproduction number – the number of people each case infects, on average – also maintained its upward trajectory, standing at 1.71.
Meanwhile, the number of severe cases has remained stable at 93. The majority of critically ill patients are not vaccinated.