Police to beef up enforcement to prevent people celebrating Passover together

Health Ministry official says authorities deeply concerned Israelis will hold Seder night with extended family, leading to surge in virus infections

Police officers close synagogues and disperse public gatherings in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea She'arim in Jerusalem, March 31, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police officers close synagogues and disperse public gatherings in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea She'arim in Jerusalem, March 31, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Authorities will step up their enforcement of lockdown rules on the first evening of Passover, April 8, Israel Police sources and the police minister said Wednesday.

Police fear that many Israelis will flout the social distancing rules and host or attend large family gatherings, as is customary on the night of the traditional Seder.

“Police will be in public areas with reinforcements and will erect many roadblocks on intra-city and intercity roads,” a police source was quoted as saying by the Walla news site.

“We won’t allow leniency on Seder night. There will be increased enforcement and those who violate the orders will be fined.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan at a press conference on January 2, 2019. (Photo by Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the police operation would start next Wednesday morning and include preventing people gathering en masse in supermarkets ahead of the festival.

Erdan will hold a situation assessment on Thursday with Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen and others.

The issue of Seder night was causing officials to “lose sleep,” Health Ministry legal adviser Uri Schwartz told journalists in a briefing Wednesday.

“We are very concerned that gatherings on the festival eve will lead to a surge in infections. It would be similar to the price we are paying today for the Purim parties [last month], which in hindsight were coronavirus infection parties,” Schwartz said, calling on Israelis not to attend Seder with their extended family.

Israelis were ordered starting last Wednesday to remain in their homes unless they are taking part in a small number of approved activities, including for some work, purchasing food and medicine or taking a short walk no more than 100 meters (328 feet) from their home. Those found violating those regulations are subject to fines of upwards of NIS 500 ($140) or imprisonment.

Illustrative: An Israeli family seen during the Passover seder on April 3, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The cabinet overnight Monday approved a set of new measures further tightening restrictions on the public amid efforts to limit the spread of the pandemic, including a ban on prayer quorums and limits on funerals and Jewish circumcision ceremonies.

The new regulations also place further limitations on workplaces, seeking to lower the workforce outside homes from 30 percent to 15% of its full capacity, and instructing all those working outside their homes to take their temperature daily before coming in to work.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Israel rose Wednesday to 21, and the number of sick increased to 5,591. According to the Health Ministry figures, the sick included 97 people in serious condition, of whom 76 were attached to ventilators. Another 118 people were in moderate condition, 226 patients had recovered, and the rest had mild symptoms.

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