Bnei Brak still has highest per capita infection rate as lockdown rolled back
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Bnei Brak still has highest per capita infection rate as lockdown rolled back

New cases seen spiking in other ultra-Orthodox cities as well, even as country begins easing restrictions

Border Police officers inspect drivers in a checkpoint at the exit of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak on April 3, 2020 (Gili Yaari /Flash90)
Border Police officers inspect drivers in a checkpoint at the exit of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak on April 3, 2020 (Gili Yaari /Flash90)

Bnei Brak has the highest per capita rate of coronavirus infection, Health Ministry data released Monday showed, even as emergency quarantine measures blocking entry to and exit from the ultra-Orthodox city were set to be eased.

The Tel Aviv suburb had 1,202 infections per 100,000 residents (2,349 actual cases), followed by the northern Arab Israeli town of Deir al-Asad in northern Israel with 99 cases, a rate of 796 for 100,000 residents. On Saturday,  Deir al-Asad and neighboring Bi’ina became restricted areas for seven days, amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak.

Over the past week, Bnei Brak has seen a 24 percent rise in new cases of COVID-19, while ultra-Orthodox cities Elad, Beitar Illit, Modiin Illit and Jerusalem all saw even larger spikes.

Elad had the third highest per capita infection rate with 321 cases, which is 686 per 100,000 residents, followed by Kochav Yaakov (59 cases, which is 685 per 100,000 residents), Kiryat Ye’arim  (39 cases, which is 682 per 100,000 residents), Kfar Chabad (45 cases, which is 669 per 100,000 residents), Efrat (64 cases, which is 559 per 1000,000 residents), Mizpe Ramon (24 cases, which is 480 per 100,000 residents), Beitar Illit (233 cases, which is 393 per 100,000 residents) and Modiin Illit (288 cases, which is 390 per 100,000 residents).

Israelis walk past a roadblock at the entrance of an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem on April 19, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The majority of the cities in the top 10 list of per capita cases of infection are predominantly ultra-Orthodox.

Jerusalem, which has the largest number of cases (2,672), was in 15th place per capita. Figures were not released detailing infection rates for individual neighborhoods within the capital.

Nationwide, there have been 13,654 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday morning, and 173 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

Bnei Brak has been cordoned off since April 3 and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem since April 12, but restrictions on both places were set to ease Monday after ministers apparently declined to extend lockdown measures there.

Many members of the ultra-Orthodox community were slower to begin heeding social distancing regulations and initially resisted the shutdown of schools and synagogues, leading to higher infection rates in some areas.

Men pray at the grave of Judah bar Ilai between Tzfat and Meron in northern Israel on April 19, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)

The rollback of specialized restrictions would put both cities under the same rules as the rest of the country, which as bar people from venturing more than 100 meters from their homes except to purchase food and supplies or go to work. As of Sunday, they may also go 500 meters from home for exercise or prayer, and 500 meters from their workplace for prayer.

Sports activities are allowed in fixed pairs, or with people from the same household. Outdoor prayer groups of up to 19 people are also allowed, with two meters between worshipers, wearing masks.

Despite the eased rules, ministry officials have urged Israelis to continue maintaining social distancing regulations and not to become complacent.

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