New virus rules keeping people within 100 meters of home go into effect
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New virus rules keeping people within 100 meters of home go into effect

Emergency regulations effective at 5 p.m. for 7 days, synagogues shut, public transportation scaled back; violators to be fined, face imprisonment for 6 months

  • Illustrative: The empty Beit Hakerem neighborhood in Jerusalem on March 25, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Illustrative: The empty Beit Hakerem neighborhood in Jerusalem on March 25, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • The nearly empty beach in Tel Aviv on March 25, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    The nearly empty beach in Tel Aviv on March 25, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Jewish men pray outside a synagogue at the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem on March 25, 2020 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
    Jewish men pray outside a synagogue at the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem on March 25, 2020 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
  • Joggers on the Tel Aviv beach boardwalk on March 25, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Joggers on the Tel Aviv beach boardwalk on March 25, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Ultra Orthodox Jews outside a supermarket in Bnei Brak on March 25, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Ultra Orthodox Jews outside a supermarket in Bnei Brak on March 25, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
  • The nearly empty Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv on March 25, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    The nearly empty Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv on March 25, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Ultra Orthodox Jewish men wait for a bus in Bnei Brak on March 25, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Ultra Orthodox Jewish men wait for a bus in Bnei Brak on March 25, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The government on Wednesday announced a raft of new restrictions that came into effect from 5 p.m. for a seven-day period, including a prohibition on people venturing more than 100 meters from their homes, apart from under certain circumstances, and the shuttering of synagogues.

The regulations permit Israelis to leave their homes only for the following activities:

1. Going to work and coming back, within previously specified regulations on who is allowed to work;

2. Stocking up on food, medicine and necessary goods and to receive essential services;

3. Receiving medical care;

4. Donating blood;

5. For legal proceedings;

6. To attend a demonstration;

7. Going to the Knesset;

8. Receiving care in a social work framework;

9. A short walk of no more than 100 meters from one’s home either as an individual or with others from the same residence for an undefined “short period of time”;

10. Helping a person with a medical problem or other difficulty that requires support, such as old age or physical infirmity;

11. Going to an outdoor area for prayer, a wedding, funeral or circumcision with fewer than 10 people at a distance of two meters apart. A woman can go to immerse in a mikveh provided that she has coordinated her arrival in advance;

12. Taking children to educational frameworks for those whose parents are essential workers (in accordance with previous orders);

13. Taking children whose parents do not live together from one residence to another;

14. Transferring a child whose sole caregiver is required to leave for an essential purpose.

In addition, public transportation was reduced to around 25 percent of services and taxis will only be permitted to take one passenger unless the second is an escort for medical reasons. All passengers must sit in the back seat of the vehicle with the windows open.

All workers should maintain a distance of two meters, or six feet, from anyone else as much as possible.

In addition, all business owners are required to check the body temperature of anyone entering their businesses. Anyone with a fever exceeding 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) is to be denied entry.

Knesset staff check people’s temperature entering the parliament, March 16, 2020. (Knesset/Adina Velman)

Restaurant delivery services are allowed to continue; however, takeout is no longer permitted. Shipping and delivery of items bought online can also continue but all packages are to be left outside the door of the residence.

Non-essential stores are to close and parks are to remain shut.

Essential home maintenance services are also permitted to continue.

People over the age of 60 are deemed to be an at-risk section of the population, and are encouraged to remain at home, according to the joint announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry.

Any store remaining open must ensure there is two meters between all staff and customers, and can only have four customers per active cash register.

Anyone found in violation of the regulations will be committing a criminal offense and can be fined NIS 500 ($137) or imprisoned for six months. The regulations allow police to enforce the relevant provisions.

An Israeli who operates public transportation in violation of the ordinances can be fined NIS 5,000 ($1,370) or be imprisoned for six months.

The shuttering of synagogues came after many in Israel’s insular ultra-Orthodox communities defied restrictions on public gatherings, despite the pleas of rabbis and local authorities. That has led to tension with authorities and in at least one case, scuffles with police.

Jewish men pray outside a synagogue at the Nahlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem on March 25, 2020 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Twenty-nine percent of those who contracted the virus inside Israel and outside their own homes were infected in a synagogue or a yeshiva, according to an analysis by the National Information and Knowledge Center for the Fight Against the Coronavirus, which has been advising the Health Ministry.

The order to close the synagogues reportedly came over the objection of ultra-Orthodox Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

Health minister Yaakov Litzman speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on March 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

The directors-general of the health and finance ministries got into a heated shouting match during deliberations on new restrictions to contain the coronavirus that were set to be approved Tuesday but were ultimately delayed, Israeli television reported.

The Health Ministry’s Moshe Bar Siman-Tov has reportedly been pushing for a full lockdown, with all Israelis kept at home in all but exceptional circumstances, a possibility Shai Babad of the Finance Ministry has opposed due to concerns over the economic fallout.

Long hours of talks were held Monday and Tuesday, and incessant media reports anticipated imminent new restrictions on public movement, including a possible complete lockdown for elderly people, but the announcement of the new regulations, initially scheduled for Tuesday evening, was pushed off.

On Wednesday the Health Ministry said 2,170 Israelis have been infected with the virus, with 37 in serious condition. Five Israelis, all of whom had preexisting medical conditions, have died.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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