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Public transportation to stop early every night, won’t operate on weekends

As Health Ministry tells Israelis to stay indoors over COVID-19, 40 inter-city bus routes canceled

Passengers on the light rail in Jerusalem, March 17, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Passengers on the light rail in Jerusalem, March 17, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The Transportation Ministry announced Tuesday it was reducing public transportation to combat the coronavirus following the new Health Ministry directive that all Israelis remain at home unless absolutely necessary.

Public transportation (buses, trains and light rail) will cease operating at 10 p.m. Tuesday before resuming at its usual time Wednesday morning. Starting on Wednesday, public transportation will stop at 8 p.m. each evening.

The ministry said public transportation will no longer operate on weekends, stopping at 8 p.m. Thursday and beginning again Sunday morning.

The ministry also indicated it would stop some lines altogether. In the statement, it said all routes were being appraised and non-essential lines — such as those extending to “entertainment areas” or those frequented by students on their way to school or university — would be scrapped. Schools and universities have been shuttered indefinitely over the outbreak.

Hours after the announcement, 40 inter-city Egged bus routes were canceled until further notice, according to Army Radio. These includes buses to Jerusalem from Haifa, Ashdod, Petach Tikva, Netanya and Tiberias.

The ministry said updated information on routes would be available online on operators’ websites and on various public transport apps.

The ministry said used of public transportation had dropped considerably in recent days as the public began adhering to government instructions to stay at home as much as possible.

A bus driver sits in a bus and wears a face mask for fear of the coronavirus in downtown Jerusalem, March 16, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Transportation Ministry also implored Israelis to avoid using public transportation altogether.

According to the Health Ministry’s updated rules, Israelis should stay at home, with exceptions made for urgent medical care and buying medicine and groceries.

Going out to parks, playgrounds, the beach, pools, libraries, museums or other public places is forbidden, with the public urged to refrain from social contact.

The Health Ministry announced 20 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total to 324. It said five people are in serious condition, nine people are in moderate condition and 299 in good condition. Another 11 people have recovered and been released.

Since the outbreak began, Israel has also required all Israelis returning to the country to self-quarantine for 14 days and barred foreigners unless they proved they had an ability to quarantine. It also shut schools, cafes, malls, gyms and theaters. Ministers early on Tuesday approved a highly controversial measure to allow the government to track Israelis’ phones to locate carriers of the virus.

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