Ministers to discuss declaring Bnei Brak a ‘restricted zone’
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Ministers to discuss declaring Bnei Brak a ‘restricted zone’

New emergency directives to reportedly include further limitations on movement in the ultra-Orthodox city, moving quarantined residents to state-run facilities

Israeli police officers remove ultra-Orthodox men from the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, as part of an effort to enforce a lockdown in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on April 2, 2020. (Flash90)
Israeli police officers remove ultra-Orthodox men from the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, as part of an effort to enforce a lockdown in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on April 2, 2020. (Flash90)

The cabinet was set to hold a conference call on Thursday evening to approve emergency directives declaring the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak a “restricted zone.”

Ministers were expected to approve a measure that among other things will require COVID-19 carriers in the crowded town of 200,000 people to be transferred to state-run isolation sites.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced strict limitations on travel in and out of Bnei Brak. It was not immediately clear what exactly those movement restrictions entailed, with Channel 12 showing footage of police barring non-residents from entering the city while two non-residents who spoke to The Times of Israel said they had been able to enter and exit Bnei Brak on Thursday unhindered.

Bnei Brak has the second highest number of confirmed cases of any Israeli city, though it is the ninth largest in the country by population. Per capita, its infection rate is four times higher than that of Jerusalem, the most infected city.

A Health Ministry breakdown of coronavirus cases by city published Thursday morning showed that the number of patients in Bnei Brak jumped by 173 in the past 24 hours, an increase of nearly 25%. Outside of Bnei Brak, the national rate of increase was around 11%, ministry figures showed.

During their conference call, the ministers also weighed authorizing the Health Ministry to instruct police to prevent entry and exit from certain coronavirus hot zones, except for workers deemed essential, Channel 12 reported.

Regarding the removal of sick residents, or those experiencing coronavirus symptoms, from crowded cities such as Bnei Brak, the cabinet has run into legal difficulties, given that it is not clear whether police can force residents from their home against their will. The TV network said senior government officials were holding discussions with lawyers regarding how best to proceed with the measure.

Authorities have upped enforcement in recent days of social distancing regulations in Bnei Brak and other ultra-Orthodox areas, where some have flouted rules against congregating or leaving home for non-essential reasons.

This week four public health clinics in the city were tasked with testing and treating virus patients, and a Magen David Adom mobile virus testing unit was also sent in.

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