Instead of localized lockdowns, Israel will impose curfews in 40 “red” locations where the novel coronavirus is spreading fast, after the number of daily infections in the country reached an all-time record last week.
As of Monday, residents of “red” areas will not be able to leave their homes from 19:00 pm (1600 GMT) until 05:00 am, a government statement said on Sunday.
Gatherings of more than 10 people in closed spaces, and of more than 20 people in open spaces, will be prohibited, and schools will be closed.
“I know that these restrictions are not easy, but in the existing situation, we have no choice,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Most “red” locations are Arab and ultra-Orthodox towns or neighbourhoods. The u-turn from localized closures announced by Netanyahu on Thursday came after massive pressure from furious mayors.
Ultra-Orthodox mayors, in a letter to Netanyahu, said they felt “humiliated” by him and vowed, “We will not cooperate” with lockdowns in singled-out communities.
Israel’s government-appointed coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu, said on Sunday he had come under “artillery fire” over his “traffic light” plan, which distinguishes between “green”, “yellow” and “red” cities – with likely closures in the worst-hit “red zones.”
Arabs make up some 20 per cent of Israel’s 9.2 million citizens and the ultra-Orthodox account for 22 per cent.
Large weddings and other mass gatherings, in violation of health ministry restrictions, documented in both sectors have reportedly played key roles in spreading the virus there.
But Gamzu acknowledged that crowded living conditions have also contributed.
Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, and the walled Old City’s Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian quarters, therefore also have high infection rates.
Daily coronavirus infections in Israel reached an all-time high last week with more than 3,000 new confirmed cases within 24 hours last Wednesday. More than 1,500 new cases were confirmed on Saturday, the Health Ministry said.
Of an overall 130,000 Covid-19 cases confirmed since the pandemic reached Israel in early 2020, 102,462 have recovered, and 1,012 died.
Some 447 are defined as being in serious condition, of whom 127 are on respirators.
Israel had hoped to significantly reduce the number of new infections by the time schools reopened last week, and ahead of the Jewish New Year celebrated in mid-September.
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