A partial lockdown on Elad, an ultra-Orthodox town in central Israel, and five predominantly ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the northern city of Tiberias went into effect at 8 a.m. on Wednesday in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday declared the town of Elad and the neighborhoods in Tiberias as “restricted zones” for seven days.
The Tiberias neighborhoods are Ramat Tiberias Bet, Ramat Tiberias Gimmel, Neighborhood 200, Tiberias Illit and the Ben Gurion neighborhood.
The decision prevents anyone who doesn’t live in the restricted zones from entering them, except to go to work or to a high school matriculation exam, or for the provision of essential services or the transfer of a minor between legal guardians, police said.
Residents of the zones may leave for work, matriculation exams, medical care, legal proceedings, the funeral of a first-degree relative or the transfer of a minor.
Police said in a statement that gatherings of more than 50 people will not be permitted in those zones and that seven checkpoints were set up in and around Tiberias.
A military task force warned Wednesday that infection rates were “very high” in ultra-Orthodox communities in comparison to the rest of the country, with around 14 percent of all new infections this week diagnosed in just five locations.
It said around 20% of active patients in Israel were from the ultra-Orthodox community, pointing to the dense living conditions, difficulties in isolating patients and connections between different communities around the country as contributing to the problem.
The task force named the predominantly ultra-Orthodox cities of Bnei Brak, Modiin Illit, Beitar Illit and Beit Shemesh as cities with concerning infection rates, as well as ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the cities of Jerusalem, Ashdod, Netanya and Safed, along with Elad and the Tiberias neighborhoods that were locked down.
In addition, the southern town of Rahat and central city of Kfar Saba were both said to be showing fast rates of growth in the number of cases.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday he signed an order authorizing the emergency call-up of 250 IDF reservists, mainly in the Home Front Command, to assist “as needed and in line with developments in the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Netanyahu said Tuesday that ministers would discuss whether to declare other areas restricted zones on Wednesday morning.
Ministers were still debating whether to introduce restrictions in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, amid a sharp rise of coronavirus infections there, according to Channel 12 news. There are particular concerns about the beachfront town, which has a relatively older population in comparison with other outbreak areas.
Health Ministry figures released Tuesday evening showed a surge in new virus cases, with 459 new infections recorded in the previous 24 hours.
The figure marked the highest 24-hour tally since numbers began climbing late last month, following a brief respite from the coornavirus. The last time the number of virus cases passed 450 in a single day was April 15.
The sharp climb in the number of cases has stoked fears of a second virus wave and led the Health Ministry on Sunday to instruct hospitals around the country to prepare to reopen their coronavirus wards.
A report by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center on Tuesday warned that Israel could see a doubling in the number of active coronavirus cases within a week.
Also on Tuesday, Netanyahu indicated that the government would consider renewing a controversial Shin Bet tracking program for virus carriers if rates continue to rise.