JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel’s Health Ministry recorded the lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in more than a month on Sunday night.
The ministry reported 145 new cases over the previous 24 hours, making it the lowest since March 20, around the time the outbreak began.
More than 15,400 people have been infected with COVID-19 and 201 people have died. Meanwhile, more than 6,700 people have recovered from the virus.
The decrease in new cases comes as the government began lifting restrictions imposed to stop the outbreak.
Hairdressers, beauty salons, and chain stores were allowed to open as long as they adhered to hygiene rules. Restaurants and cafés were also permitted to open so long as they served customers with delivery or takeout options.
However, many of Israel’s large chain stores remain closed, despite approval to open, in protest against the government. They also demanded compensation for the time they were forced to close.
Merchants at Jerusalem’s famous open-air Machane Yehuda market clashed with police over the continued closure.
One shop owner told Army Radio it is unfair that the market must remain closed while other stores across the country have been given the green light by the government to open.
“We’ve been kept closed for a month,” said Tali Friedman. “This cannot go on.”
While several stores in Machane Yehuda have been open for weeks, the widespread shut down of business there by the government has put a severe financial strain on many shop keepers.
Israeli media reported Sunday that a veteran merchant there committed suicide about a week and a half ago due to the financial hardship the virus outbreak has caused.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said he was “shocked and pained by the sad news.”
Lion has been a strong advocate for the opening of Machane Yehuda and called on the government to ease restrictions, saying “the livelihood of thousands of families is in danger.”
Israel’s Finance Ministry is at odds with the Health Ministry over the country-wide shutdown. The Finance Ministry is urging the government to open up the country out of fear the economy will not recover if more restrictions are not lifted.
The unemployment rate in Israel was at 27 percent as of Thursday.
The Health Ministry argues that opening the country too soon will lead to a spike in cases.
The government approved on Friday a ($2.27 billion) plan to help small businesses and self-employed Israelis who have been hit hard by the restrictions.
FOR CBN NEWS CONTINUING COVERAGE ON COVID-19, CLICK HERE.