Passover closure comes into effect, with all intercity travel banned

Roads empty throughout Israel as lockdown enacted ahead of holiday; measures to remain in place until Friday evening and include 16-hour curfew from Seder night

Illustrative: The empty Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv on April 4, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: The empty Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv on April 4, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A three-day national closure approved by the government to curb the coronavirus outbreak during the Passover holiday entered into effect on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Highways throughout the country emptied as travel between cities was officially banned.

The lockdown will remain in force until Friday evening at 6 a.m.

The closure, confining Israelis to their cities and towns and authorizing police to detain violators, was approved by the cabinet on Tuesday morning following a several-hour meeting.

The sweeping orders will also require Israelis to start wearing face masks outdoors beginning Sunday.

Under the emergency regulations green-lighted by the ministers, supermarkets, food deliveries and other essential services will continue to operate until Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m., and then be allowed to resume Thursday morning.

In a tighter curfew coinciding with the Passover Seder, from Wednesday at 3 p.m. until Thursday at 7 a.m., Israelis will be banned from venturing out farther than 100 meters from their homes and all businesses in the country will be shut.

From Thursday morning until Friday, Israelis will again be permitted to move within their cities and towns for essential needs, but will not be allowed to leave city limits. Exceptions will be made for those who do not have supermarkets and pharmacies in their towns, but they may go only to the nearest town with those services.

Jerusalem residents will be confined throughout the lockdown and curfew within the city zone they live in, after government officials sketched out a division of the city — which has the largest number of virus cases in the country — into seven portions.

A map provided by the Health Ministry divides Jerusalem into seven regions. Residents are not permitted to leave their region from Tuesday evening until Friday morning (Health Ministry)

Public transportation throughout the country was to cease at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and will not resume until Sunday morning. The government decision also canceled all international flights from Tuesday night through Sunday, unless the airlines receive special permission from the transportation and interior ministries.

The curfew measure will not extend to Arab towns, where Passover is not celebrated.

The measures are designed to keep Israelis from attempting to spend the festive Passover Seder meal on Wednesday night with relatives or others, which officials fear could lead to a fresh wave of infections and push Israel backwards just as initial signs of recovery have started to emerge.

As of Tuesday, 61 people have died from the virus, which has infected just over 9,000.

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