Knesset committee demands local leaders be consulted on lockdowns

The Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee has given the go-ahead for the Knesset to vote two final times on a law extending the government’s ability to declare areas with high coronavirus infection numbers as restricted zones.

However, committee members mark up the bill with a caveat that any such move must be made in consultation with local leaders and with respect paid to local needs, with extensive efforts made to obtain the agreement of locals.

The change is spearheaded by committee head Yakov Asher, whose UTJ party represents an ultra-Orthodox community beset by high infection rates and which has opposed measures restricting movement in Haredi neighborhoods and shutting down synagogues and yeshivas.

The addition to the bill will also require lawmakers to ensure that the restricted area is not wider than absolutely necessary. Asher describes the additions as necessary to keep the Health Ministry from messing up. “If you bring things to ministers, make well sure they line up with reality,” he says at the end of the discussion, in a rebuke to health officials.

Ultra-Orthodox community leaders have complained that recent lockdowns on some Haredi neighborhoods were based on faulty data or unnecessarily draconian given the infection rates.

The bill will now to move to the Knesset for second and third readings.

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