Officials agree to new coronavirus restrictions, details yet to be announced

New directives to take effect Wednesday evening are expected to further curtail movement, business openings, public transportation

Jerusalem Municipality workers close the entrances to the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on March 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jerusalem Municipality workers close the entrances to the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on March 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli officials approved new restrictions to stem the coronavirus outbreak in the early hours of Wednesday morning after some six hours of deliberations.

The details of the new restrictions were not immediately released but will take effect on Wednesday evening, according to Hebrew media reports.

The talks were held Monday night and through Tuesday, with incessant media reports anticipating imminent new restrictions on public movement, including a possible complete lockdown for elderly people; however, an announcement of the new regulations, scheduled for Tuesday evening, was not made.

According to reports, the new restrictions will include a ban on outdoor exercise and a limit on residents from strolling more than 100 meters away from their homes. They could also see new restrictions on restaurant takeout and public transportation further scaled back, if not halted entirely.

The Prime Minister’s Office said shortly after midnight that remote schooling would resume this week after a dispute over teachers’ salaries halted classes for nearly a week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Tuesday that restaurants will still be permitted to deliver food under the new rules, but self pick-up would be barred.

The prime minister also decided to exempt urgent trips to veterinarians from the new restrictions on movement and allow deliveries of pet food.

The finalizing of the new measures came after Israel recorded two more fatalities from the virus Tuesday, bringing the total to three. There have been 1,930 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.

Over the past few weeks, the government has ordered increasingly severe restrictions on public life, with schools, universities, and leisure centers shuttered and Israelis ordered to stay at home as much as possible.

The country on Sunday put in place new measures aimed at enforcing the social distancing rules, but many Israelis have continued to venture out, for work or leisure, leading officials to warn that a full lockdown enforced by police and the army could be in the offing.

The Health Ministry has been pushing for a full lockdown, according to Hebrew media reports, but the Finance Ministry has pushed back, warning of the economic consequences of such a move.

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