For technical reasons, Israel cannot delay the switch to daylight saving time, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri conceded Monday, a day after he floated the measure in a bid to discourage pedestrian traffic in the streets in the evening, and promote social distancing, as part of the fight against the coronavirus.
As a result, clocks will spring forward later this week, on the night between March 26 and March 27, as planned.
Authorities on Sunday said they would seek to delay the switch until May 1.
But Deri said that following consultations, he learned it was too late to synchronize the change with programming on computers and cellphones.
Such a change of policy requires “technological preparations of several months,” a statement from his office said. It also said that since Israel’s internet was under strain by the millions kept indoors due to the outbreak, “any mistakes could disable entire systems.”
In addition, the statement said, “there is the danger of harming the operational capabilities of the IDF, and the medical technologies in hospitals.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit both had given their approval to the measure.
Following the reversal, at 2 a.m. Friday, the clocks will spring forward an hour, to 3 a.m. The clocks will revert back on October 25, 2020.
The government reversal on daylight savings time came as officials were expected to tighten the lockdown on the country. Israel has seen one fatality from the outbreak, and 1,238 confirmed cases, 24 of them serious.
According to the existing rules, Israelis must remain at home, with exceptions made for buying essential food and medical supplies or seeking medical treatment. Other exceptions include attending demonstrations, aiding an elderly or ill person, blood donations, attending court hearings, seeking aid from welfare services, going to the Knesset, and attending religious services, including weddings and funerals or visiting a ritual bath (mikveh).
Israelis were permitted to exercise outdoors, with no more than two people together, and to venture out for short walks near their homes. The ban also limited the number of people who could drive in a car to two, unless they were members of the same household (this does not apply to “essential” errands, carpools of essential workers to and from work, and delivery services).