Cabinet approves lockdown of 3 Jerusalem neighborhoods, parts of Hura

Ministers also lift restrictions in Netivot and most of Beit Shemesh, although closure of Ramat Bet Shemesh Bet will be extended until May 3

Israeli police guard a roadblock in Jerusalem, on April 29, 2020, as Israel celebrates its 72th Independence Day under lockdown due to the coronavirus. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli police guard a roadblock in Jerusalem, on April 29, 2020, as Israel celebrates its 72th Independence Day under lockdown due to the coronavirus. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced fresh lockdown measures in three Jerusalem neighborhoods as well two neighborhoods in the Bedouin town of Hura, near Beersheba, which are to go into effect on Thursday night.

After wrapping up a discussion with health and other officials regarding restrictions on coronavirus hotspots, Netanyahu also decided to ease the rules in Netivot and Beit Shemesh, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry.

Hura has seen at least 30 new infections in the last three days, according to Health Ministry statistics, becoming the third-highest Israeli community in virus cases per capita, after Deir al-Asad in northern Israel and central Israel’s Bnei Brak. However, while the two most infected locales have seen their numbers stabilize, showing an increase of under 1 percent in the past three days, the number of cases in Hura has surged by nearly 77% since earlier this week.

In Hura, neighborhoods 9 and 10 will be sealed off from Thursday night at 11 p.m. until Sunday midnight.

Jerusalem is the 15th-most infected area in the country per capita, with the largest number of overall cases at nearly 3,500.

The three Jerusalem neighborhoods listed in the cabinet’s new draft regulations are Kiryat Sanz, Kiryat Belz and Romema. The neighborhoods were identified in the government statement as “Central Romema.” The areas will also be closed from 11 p.m. Thursday through midnight Sunday.

View of the Bedouin city of Hura in the Negev Desert, south of Beersheba, on August 27, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The government also lifted restrictions in the city of Netivot and the Menuha Venahala neighborhood in Beit Shemesh, after the outbreaks there were put under control.

However, the Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet neighborhood will remain under lockdown until May 3.

Some kindergartens won’t reopen

Meanwhile, government-supervised daycare centers will likely not be opened on Sunday after their operators asked for more time to prepare, according to Channel 12.

The government earlier this week gave tentative support for preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools up to third grade to resume classes on Sunday, barring another spike in infections.

The schools will be subject to strict social distancing rules. The 1st-3rd grade classes are to be capped at 15 students, and preschools and kindergartens will be told to divide the children into two groups and teach each group of up to 17 children three days a week.

Workers clean a classroom at Luba Eliav primary school in Rishon Lezion on April 30, 2020. (Flash90)

Ministers are expected to give final approval to the reopening of schools on Friday.

Private preschools and kindergartens earlier this week said they would not reopen unless the government offered financial compensation for their losses.

According to Channel 12, Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov is reluctant to sign off on the reopening of preschools and kindergartens, warning of another wave of infection. He told the ministers that every day that the institutions remain closed means a day less of lockdown for the country over the summer.

The Health Ministry on Thursday morning raised the national death toll from the coronavirus to 219, with four more fatalities since the previous evening, as data showed a sustained slowdown of daily infection rates.

On Wednesday, Israel saw its number of recovered patients surpass the number of active cases for the first time. On Thursday morning, the gap grew, with the number of recovered patients rising to 8,412 — an increase of 483 over the previous 24 hours — of the 15,870 cases confirmed in the country.

In total, 88 new infections were recorded in the previous 24 hours, the fourth consecutive day with fewer than 200 new cases. The country was put into lockdown for Independence Day from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday evening.

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