Data shows nearly 1/3rd of all virus cases centered in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak

Defense Ministry-led research indicates three-quarters of capital’s carriers live in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, recommends hardest-hit areas be isolated from other parts of city

Police officers close synagogues and hand out fines to ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Bukharim quarter in Jerusalem on April 6, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police officers close synagogues and hand out fines to ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Bukharim quarter in Jerusalem on April 6, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Nearly one-third of the approximately 9,000 coronavirus cases in Israel are in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, with the vast majority of infections in the capital believed to be concentrated in its ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

Jerusalem has 1,464 virus cases and Bnei Brak has 1,386, ministry data showed. Those cities were followed by Tel Aviv-Jaffa, with 393 cases, Ashkelon (209), Elad (172), Petah Tikva (172), Beit Shemesh, (152), Rishon Lezion (152), Modiin Illit (151), and Ashdod (145).

Bnei Brak, a Haredi city near Tel Aviv, had 67 cases per 10,000 people, while Jerusalem had 16 for every 10,000 residents, according to the Health Ministry. But the ministry noted in a Defense Ministry-led think tank report it shared Tuesday that most infections in Jerusalem are in the capital’s most densely populated ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, with the threat of spread there similar to that in virus hotspot Bnei Brak.

As many as 1,100 of the 1,465 cases — or 75 percent — of the Jerusalem cases are concentrated in Haredi neighborhoods, the report said. The report put out by the Health Ministry was compiled by the National Knowledge and Research Center for Emergency Readiness, which is run by the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and children wearing protective masks gather in a street in the the ultra-Orthodox Israeli city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv on April 2, 2020, during the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

It cited 118 cases in the Har Nof neighborhood, 90 in Bayit Vegan, 80 in Ramat Shlomo, 50 in Givat Shaul, 97 in Ramot, 46 in Neve Yaakov, and 45 in the center of the city. The report said a cluster of ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the north of the city, which it did not name, had 416 cases.

“In light of these findings, it is recommended to isolate the Haredi neighborhoods from the rest of Jerusalem, to prevent the infection of other neighborhoods; to increase the number of tests in these neighborhoods; and to work to remove the sick residents from them, to cut off the continued spread,” the report said.

Israeli Police officers wearing protective clothing in the ultra orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem on April 6, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community initially dismissed social distancing regulations, which officials say has led to the high rate of infection. This prompted the closure of Bnei Brak — the most densely populated city in Israel — by the government, the first for an Israeli city amid the pandemic.

According to the Health Ministry’s figures on the virus, in Bnei Brak, one person in 140 was a confirmed carrier of the disease, while in Kfar Chabad, 1 in 160 were infected and in the settlement of Efrat, one in every 166 residents had tested positive for the disease.

The lowest rates in the country were reported primarily in Arab-majority cities and towns.

An Israeli woman talks to a friend from her apartment balcony, as they practice social distancing, in Jerusalem on March 31, 2020.(Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israel has had 60 fatalities from the virus. According to the Health Ministry, 9,006 people were sick with the virus as of Tuesday morning, 153 of them seriously. Of the serious cases, 113 were on ventilators. Another 181 people were in moderate condition, with the remaining patients showing mild symptoms. The updated figures marked a rise of 102 cases since the previous evening.

The cabinet on Tuesday morning was set to approve a closure and curfew over the Passover holiday to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus, amid uncertainty over when it will take effect and how long it will last.

Beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Israelis will not be able to leave the communities where they live until Friday at 7 a.m., Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, while residents of some Jerusalem neighborhoods will be not be allowed to travel beyond restricted areas.

However, later Monday, Hebrew media, citing a draft of the measures to be approved by ministers, said the lockdown would end on Saturday evening at 7 p.m.

The Health Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that stores would remain open until 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

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