One Third of Coronavirus Tests in ultra-Orthodox City in Central Israel Return Positive

In Bnei Brak 35 percent of those tested had the virus, in other ultra-Orthodox towns residents received positive results at much higher rates than the national average

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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A coronavirus testing station in Bnei Brak, March 31, 2020.
A coronavirus testing station in Bnei Brak, March 31, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

The number of residents testing positive for the coronavirus in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities is substantially higher than in cities with a mixed population or where the population is secular, according to data obtained by Haaretz.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 72

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The disparity is particularly apparent in the Tel Aviv ultra-Orthodox suburb of Bnei Brak, where 508 residents had tested positive for the virus as of Monday – more than double what the figure was four days earlier. As of Sunday, 35.5 percent of those tested in the suburb were found to have the virus (462 out of roughly 1,300). As of Monday, the infection rate was 2.5 per 1,000 residents there.

A similar trend has been found in other ultra-Orthodox towns. As of Sunday, a quarter of those tested in Elad were found to have been infected (59 of 240 tested), bringing the total in the town to 62 as of Monday. This was up from 36 cases on Thursday, giving Elad an infection rate of .41 per 1,000 residents.

In the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit, 20 percent of those tested received positive results as of Sunday (33 out of 240). The rate of infection was 0.6 per 1,000 residents. In Modi’in Ilit, which is also ultra-Orthodox, 18 percent of those tested were found to have the virus (33 out of 180 tested).

In cities with mixed populations, such as Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Ashdod, which have substantial Haredi communities, the percentage of those testing positive has been much lower. But a considerable number of coronavirus patients in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh are from ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods there.

As of Sunday, 10 percent of those tested in Jerusalem were found to be infected with the virus (520 out of 5,250) or 0.6 residents per 1,000 people. In Beit Shemesh, west of the capital, 11.5 percent tested positive (57 of 500). By contrast, in Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, only 6.5 percent tested positive (70 out of 1,100).

In a break from prior practice, over the past several days, the Health Ministry has refrained from releasing figures on the exact number of Israelis that have been tested. Ministry staff put the figure at about 6,000 a day. Assuming that this number is close to accurate, the rate of positive test results in ultra-Orthodox communities is much higher than the national average.

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