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Closure of Bnei Brak, parts of Jerusalem expires, likely won’t be renewed

Health officials encouraged by effects of the containment measures and willingness of sick residents to be moved to isolation hotels in worst hit areas

People cross a police roadblock in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem  on April 19, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People cross a police roadblock in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem on April 19, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Emergency regulations with specific lockdown measures for residents of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak and many Jerusalem neighborhoods expired at midnight Sunday and were unlikely to be renewed.

A cabinet meeting was set for Monday at 10 a.m. to discuss the issue, but ministers were not expected to reimpose measures that kept residents of Bnei Brak under a tighter lockdown, and prevented many Jerusalem residents, mostly in predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas, from leaving “zones” demarcated by the authorities.

The two areas have seen high rates of coronavirus infection, but health officials have been encouraged by the effects of the containment measures and willingness of sick residents to be moved to isolation hotels.

Residents of the Jerusalem neighborhoods will now be under the same restrictions as the rest of the country, which keep them within 100 meters of their homes, with exceptions of purchasing food, supplies and going to work.

Under eased restrictions approved over the weekend, people are also allowed to go 500 meters beyond their own homes for sports or prayer, and 500 meters from their workplace for prayer. Sports activities are allowed only in fixed pairs, or with people from the same household.

Outdoor prayers of up to 19 people are also allowed, with two meters between worshipers, wearing masks.

Jerusalem has seen the highest number of infections in the country, and Bnei Brak, the ultra-Orthodox town of 200,000 near Tel Aviv has the second highest infection numbers.  Three-quarters of the cases in Jerusalem have come from majority ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

Israeli soldiers of the Home Front Command wearing full protective clothing seen at a nursing home in the city of Bnei Brak, April 14, 2020. (Flash90)

Two weeks ago Bnei Brak was placed under a strict lockdown, with residents only allowed to leave municipal boundaries to work in key industries or to receive medical care. Several Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods were put under lockdown on last Sunday.

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

The death toll from the coronavirus in Israel rose to 172 Sunday, with 13,491 confirmed cases, according to the Health Ministry.

A total of 146 patients are in serious condition, including 109  on ventilators, 142 are considered in a moderate condition, and 9,277 have light symptoms. Meanwhile, 3,754 people have recovered from the disease.

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