World News

IKEA opens half of stores in Israel after lockdown eased

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – IKEA, the world’s biggest furniture brand, opened three of its six stores in Israel on Wednesday after the government started to gradually ease its coronavirus lockdown.

IKEA, which closed its stores in mid-March, said it would abide by Health Ministry guidelines such as for customers to stand 2 meters apart and wear facemasks.

IKEA operates through a franchise system, with the Bronfman-Fisher Group owning the stores in Israel.

It reopened two of its biggest outlets in central Israel — Netanya and Rishon Lezion — as well as a smaller store at the Tel Aviv port.

Ingka Group, the biggest franchisee and owner of most IKEA stores worldwide, said last week it expected to start reopening stores in Europe in May while its business in China was roughly back to normal.

Israel on Sunday began letting some businesses reopen and relaxed curbs on movement after a slowdown in infection rates.

Israel has reported at least 187 deaths and nearly 14,400 cases of COVID-19.

The restrictions had forced many businesses to close and sent unemployment above 26%.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Alison Williams)