Closures in Lod, Ashdod as cases pass 1,000 a day; new restrictions considered

Ministers to discuss limiting gatherings at restaurants, event halls to 50 people; Netanyahu: ‘Numbers are rising and there is nothing to stop them if we don’t act immediately’

People wear protective face masks on the beach in Tel Aviv, on July 01, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
People wear protective face masks on the beach in Tel Aviv, on July 01, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Cabinet ministers on Wednesday night approved new closures on neighborhoods in the central cities of Lod and Ashdod that have emerged as hotspots of coronavirus infections in recent days.

By Wednesday night, Israel saw its highest single-day tally since the pandemic began, with 1,013 cases diagnosed since the night before.

Closures in Ashdod’s Gimel, Zayin and Heth neighborhoods and in Lod’s Rakevet, Snir and Neveh Shalom neighborhoods will come into effect at 8 a.m. Thursday and will last seven days.

Traffic into and out of these neighborhoods will be limited, as will movement and the opening of businesses within them. The Health Ministry will issue exact guidelines to each area.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz agreed to convene the so-called coronavirus cabinet Thursday to discuss tighter restrictions on public gatherings, as the number of daily infections reached an all-time high.

According to the Ynet new site, ministers could vote to limit attendance at event halls, bars and restaurants to 50 people.

Netanyahu told ministers “Numbers are rising and there is nothing on the horizon to stop them if we don’t act immediately with significant steps.”

File: A man wears a protective face mask as he walks in Lod on April 12, 2020 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Ministers were told that the past four days have seen a steep rise in serious cases. The latest wave of infections had initially seen mostly younger people catch the virus, leading to milder cases, but this trend is now changing to include older, more vulnerable people as well.

Netanyahu also called for tighter enforcement of social distancing and hygiene restrictions at event halls, even suggesting posting undercover police at weddings to ensure participants adhere to the rules.

Also Wednesday evening the Knesset approved new legislation to allow the Shin Bet security service to resume phone tracking of Israelis to enable contact tracing of confirmed cases. The law will be in effect for three weeks as a more comprehensive bill is drafted.

Israel also saw a new 24-hour record by 11 p.m. Wednesday, with 1,013 new cases found since that same time Tuesday.

The death toll was at 322 after another person died of the virus Wednesday evening.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-L) and his coalition partner Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C-R), attend a graduation ceremony for new pilots in Hatzerim air force base near Beersheba, on June 25, 2020. (Ariel Schalit / POOL / AFP)

Officials in the Health Ministry are said to be pushing for imposing strict lockdowns in dozens of cities in a dramatic push to contain the outbreak, which Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has warned is the “beginning of a second wave.”

On Tuesday, cabinet ministers imposed new restrictions on public gatherings in a bid to stem the rising infection rate. The main restrictions, approved late Monday by the “coronavirus cabinet,” apply to event halls and public gathering places, which have seen a steady return of business as long-delayed weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and cultural events have once again been held.

A report from the Corona National Campaign Information and Knowledge Center published Wednesday showed that the rate of infections in the ultra-Orthodox community is twice that of the rest of the population, Hebrew media reported.

In the first wave of the virus outbreak, the ultra-Orthodox community was hard hit amid what was seen by many as a lax attitude towards lockdown orders that saw the entire population told to stay at home, only venturing out for necessities. Bnei Brak saw the highest infection rate in the country, leading to the entire city being sealed off.

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