Ministers okay nightly curfews, school closures in 40 virus hotspots

After delays, new rules to go into effect Tuesday at 7 p.m.; Bnei Brak and parts of Jerusalem, Ashdod, Ashkelon among affected localities; restrictions expire September 15

Children, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stand on a street in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak on September 6, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Children, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stand on a street in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak on September 6, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The government on Tuesday approved nightly curfews of dozens of cities and towns with high coronavirus infection rates, effective from Tuesday evening for a week, after Israel saw its highest-yet number of daily COVID-19 cases.

The curfews will be in effect every day between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. through September 15. During the curfew, residents must keep within 500 meters of their homes and non-essential businesses will be closed. Schools will be closed at all times, except for special needs programs.

The list of affected cities and neighborhoods was published by the Health Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office late Tuesday morning.

The roster includes all of Bnei Brak, Beitar Ilit, Umm al-Fahm, and Nazareth, as well as parts of Jerusalem, Ashdod and Eilat.

A full list can be found below.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews are pictured praying in a synagogue divided with plastic sheets in the religious Israeli city of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, amid measures put in place by Israeli authorities in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19 on September 7, 2020. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

The release of the list came only hours before the rules are set to go into effect, after repeated delays by the government.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said he would comply with the government order on the nighttime curfews in parts of the capital, though he strongly criticized the policy.

“I don’t know what a nightly curfew is,” Lion told the Kan public broadcaster. “For two months we’ve been warning about mass weddings in the eastern part of the city. When we speak about a nightly curfew in Ramot, a neighborhood of 55,000 residents, it means they’re going into lockdown because of about 300 patients. I can’t explain that to the residents.”

On Sunday night, the government pulled back from its plan to impose lockdowns on some cities with especially high infection rates, instead announcing nighttime curfews and the closing of schools.

The curfews were meant to go into effect on Monday night, but were delayed on Monday afternoon after politicians and health officials argued over which cities should be impacted.

Police officers on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on August 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier plans for local round-the-clock lockdowns were shelved after heavy pressure on Netanyahu from the ultra-Orthodox community.

Four Haredi mayors published an unprecedented open letter Sunday accusing the prime minister of “trampling” their communities and “turning us into disease vectors and enemies of the people.”

Most of the municipalities on the “red” list are Arab municipalities, and with a few exceptions, many Arab Israeli mayors have welcomed new restrictions to fight the spread of the coronavirus in their cities and towns.

Officials insist a nationwide lockdown is still a possibility, especially over the upcoming High Holidays. A key cabinet discussion on the matter is expected on Thursday.

According to the Ynet news site, ministers in the so-called coronavirus cabinet will discuss a proposal by virus czar Ronni Gamzu to shutter all schools across the country over the holiday period, from September 18 through October 10.

Staff wearing protective clothes as they work in the coronavirus ward at the Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh), near Tel Aviv, August 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Tuesday that 3,425 new coronavirus cases were confirmed over the previous day — the highest daily figure since the start of pandemic, shattering a previous record set last week. According to Health Ministry data, the total number of cases hit 135,288 on Tuesday morning, of which 106,297 have recovered.

Of the 27,962 active cases, 467 are in serious condition, 134 of them on ventilators. Another 154 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms. Overall, 467 people are hospitalized with the disease.

The death toll rose to 1,031, showing nine deaths over the previous 24 hours.

The full roster of cities and neighborhoods being placed under nightly curfew:

  • Bnei Brak
  • Elad
  • Umm al-Fahm
  • Taibe
  • Tira
  • Nazareth
  • Netivot
  • Abu Snan
  • Eilat’s Shahmon neighborhood
  • the Gimmel, Zayin, Het neighborhoods of Ashdod
  • the Ashkelon neighborhoods of Mitzpe Barnea, Ganei Barnea, Naot Barnea, Givat Zion and Carmei Zion
  • Buqata
  • Beitar Illit
  • the Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef, Ramat Bet Shemesh Gimmel and Menuha and Nahala neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh
  • Najidat
  • Baqa al-Gharbiyye
  • Julis
  • Jaljulya
  • Jatt
  • Daliyat al-Karmel
  • Avatan, in the Zemer region
  • Yafa an-Naseriyye
  • Kasra-Samia
  • Kafr Bara
  • Kafr Manda
  • the municipal area of Kafr Qassem, with the exception of industrial zones Lev Haaretz and Nof Haaretz
  • Kafr Qara
  • Lakiya
  • Musheirifa and Salem in the Ma’ale Iron region
  • Ein Mahil
  • Emmanuel
  • Assafiya
  • Fureidis
  • Arara
  • Qalansawe
  • Reineh
  • Rechasim
  • Sderot’s Naot Yitzhak Rabin and Naot HaNeviim neighborhoods
  • Shfaram
  • Nine neighborhoods of Jerusalem will also be affected: Kafr Aqab, Beit Hanina, Ramat Shlomo, Ramot, A-Tur, Issawiya, Anata, Shuafat refugee camp and Sanhedria.

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