Despite Resistance, Nightly Curfew in 40 Israeli Coronavirus Hot Spots Goes Into Effect

During the week-long curfew, residents' movement is restricted and all non-essential businesses are closed

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Members of the ultra-Orthodox community stand at a bus stop in Bnei Brak, September 8, 2020.
Members of the ultra-Orthodox community stand at a bus stop in Bnei Brak, September 8, 2020.Credit: Motti Millrod

A nightly curfew on 40 towns and neighborhoods across Israel began Tuesday, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus in hardest hit localities.

The curfew, which will last until September 15, takes effect daily from 7 P.M. until 5 A.M. During curfews, residents will be able to walk up to 500 meters (0.3 miles) from their homes, and all businesses that are not essential will be closed.

In addition, the education system in these localities will shift to distance learning, except special education. Gatherings in closed spaces will also be to be limited to up to 10 people, and up to 20 in open areas.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Ministerial Committee for Restricted Areas approved the list of 40 localities compiled by the Health Ministry.

The government was expected to impose the night curfew on Monday, but the move was postponed to Tuesday due to a delay in finalizing the list of localities following talks with the heads of authorities.

Knesset members and mayors assailed the decision, terming it disproportionate and ineffective. Ultra-Orthodox MKs also said the curfew was discriminatory, since it was being imposed on ultra-Orthodox towns in their entirety but only on selected neighborhoods of other Jewish towns, with the sole exception of Netivot.

Children in the neighborhood of Romema, in Jerusalem, after it was put under lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, May 1, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

“It’s outrageous that in certain cities, whose mayors belong to a certain party, they are capable of imposing a curfew by neighborhood, but when it comes to ultra-Orthodox cities, they don’t know how to divide the city into neighborhoods,” Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism party said Tuesday.

Deputy Transportation Minister Uri Maklev, also of UTJ, added that the cabinet “chose the easy, ineffective way – locking down entire cities. Closing schools in those places is a major blow to education and the economy and increases morbidity,” meaning incidence of the virus.

Betar Ilit, an ultra-Orthodox town, said in a statement, “We won’t lend a hand to discrimination against the ultra-Orthodox public. We demand full transparency about infection rate data and detailed explanations about why a curfew was imposed on an entire ultra-Orthodox city rather than by neighborhood. We can’t provide backing to steps taken without transparency.”

In Jerusalem, where only certain neighborhoods are being placed under curfew, Mayor Moshe Leon said he objected even to that. “A nighttime curfew on neighborhoods in the western part of the city is simply ineffective,” he said. “The virus doesn’t have hours when it rests.”

“The rational for restricting movement at night in the Arab community – to prevent weddings, which are a major source of infection – is understandable, and is meant primarily for the benefit of the Arab residents themselves,” he added. “But infringing on Jerusalem residents’ freedom of movement in a manner that won’t prevent the spread of the virus is disproportionate.”

The list of localities is based on the list of "red" areas, which included about 30 authorities with a high infection rate. In the last day, ten more localities have been added to the list where the night curfew will be imposed.

Ultra-Orthodox men walking near a tape cordoning off a high coronavirus infection area in the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak, September 6, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The localities subject to the night curfew are: Abu Sanan; Umm al-Fahm; Shahamon neighborhood in Eilat; Elad; Neighborhoods C, Z, and H in Ashdod; Mitzpe Barnea, Ganei Barnea, Neot Barnea, Givat Zion and Karmei Zion neighborhoods in Ashkelon; Buqata; Beit Shemesh; Bnei Brak; the settlement of Najidat in the municipal area Bouina Najidat area; Baqa al-Gharbiya; Julis; Jaljulya; Jatt; Daliat al-Carmel; the Abtan community in the Zemer local council; Taibeh; Tira; Yafia; the neighborhoods of Kfar Akev, Beit Hanina, Ramat Shlomo, Ramot, A-Tur, Isawiyah, Anata, Shuafat refugee camp and Sanhedria in Jerusalem; the Kisra community in the Kisra-Samia local council; Kfar Bara; Kfar Manda; Kfar Qasem, except for the Lev Haaretz and Nof Haaretz industrial zones; Kfar Kara; Lakiya local council; the communities of Mushirfa and Salem in the Ma'ale Iron local council; Nazareth; Netivot; Ein Mahel; Asfiya; Arara; Fureidis; Kalansua; Reineh; Rechasim; Neot Yitzhak Rabin and Neot Haneviim neighborhoods in Sderot; And Shfaram.

The curfew is not only based on the definition of the city as red in the "traffic light" model, but includes a hearing procedure for the various localities, during which staff working under coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, will inform the head of the authority they intend to impose a curfew.

As part of the procedure, meetings are held with each head of each authority, in which the relevant data and the reasons for imposing the curfew are presented. The heads of the authority can present their position regarding the list of restrictions that will be imposed on the locality or council they head.

According to officials in the health system, the process of finalizing the list continued until late into the night on Monday. In some cases, there was particularly complex and strong opposition from the heads of the authorities, who sought to prevent the night curfew in their area.

According to data released by the Health Ministry published on Tuesday, 1,068 new coronavirus infections have been diagnosed since Monday. The number of patients hospitalized has increased by six since Monday and now totals 920 people. The number of patients in a serious condition stands at 463, a decrease of seven from Monday night, while 127 of them are on ventilators, a decrease of eight. The death toll remains unchanged at 1,026. On Monday night, the number of tests performed throughout the day was 5,687.

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