The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday deployed additional troops from the Home Front Command to the towns of Beit Shemesh and Netivot following coronavirus outbreaks in several of their neighborhoods.
On Friday, the government decided to lock down several predominantly ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh and Netivot following a spike in COVID-19 infections there, apparently a result of lax social distancing.
The IDF troops will distribute food to at-risk populations in the towns, as they did in other cities across the country that were hit by outbreaks of the disease. The Home Front Command will also help authorities spread their messages to residents of these areas, the military said.
“The IDF will continue to help the civilian arena, as much as is necessary, during the fight against the spread of the coronavirus,” the army said in a statement.
The closures in Beit Shemesh and Netivot went into effect at 6 a.m. Sunday and were scheduled to end at 6 a.m. on Friday, May 1.
In Netivot, the order applied to the neighborhoods of Netaim and Shalom Boinich. It also applies to the Hazani, Tzaban, Hatzalah, Brosh, Bilu and Gershonowitz streets in the southern town. In Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem, the neighborhoods of Nahala v’Menuha and Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet were locked down.
The lockdowns came as much of the rest of the country began reopening under a set of relaxed restrictions.
On Saturday, police removed the roadblocks that were set up a week before around the Arab Israeli towns of Deir al-Asad and Bi’ina when those towns were declared “restricted zones” due to a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases there.
Though they were no longer designated as restricted zones, Deir al-Asad and Bi’ina would continue to be subject to nighttime curfews that the government put in place for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
On Sunday, the government further relaxed its restrictions on the economy as the country appeared to be gaining a degree of control over the pandemic.
Most stores were allowed to resume operations from midnight Saturday, if hygiene regulations related to the virus were adhered to, including hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons. Shopping malls, however, were kept closed.
In addition, restaurants and food shops were allowed to sell products for takeaway, not just home deliveries, if a physical barrier is placed between the cashier and the customers.
However, the government made stricter its rules regarding face masks beginning Monday, forcing people to wear them anywhere outside the home and not only in shops and gatherings, as had been required before.
As of Sunday afternoon, Israel’s death toll stood at 200 from the coronavirus. In total, the Health Ministry reported 15,398 COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, an increase of 250 over the previous 24 hours.
The ministry said 132 people were in serious condition, 100 of whom were on ventilators, and 93 people were moderately ill.
There have now been 6,602 people in Israel who recovered from the coronavirus, according to the announcement, which came a day after the World Health Organization said it could not yet guarantee that people can’t be reinfected after recovery.
Israel has registered 23 deaths per million citizens, according to the Worldometers tally on Sunday early afternoon, which places it at around 40th in the world, slightly better than the world average of some 26 deaths per million.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.