Explained: Shutdown, Curfew in Israel's Toughest Coronavirus Restrictions to Date

Israelis effectively confined to their homes for Passover seder ■ Face masks required in public as of Sunday

Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer
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Customers line up outside a supermarket in Bnei Brak on April 7, 2020.
Customers line up outside a supermarket in Bnei Brak on April 7, 2020. Credit: Nir Keidar
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer

The Israeli government approved on Tuesday the toughest set of regulations since the coronavirus outbreak began, in an effort to clamp down on any attempts by Israelis to leave their homes and travel in order to celebrate the Passover seder with their extended families.

Under the latest measures, which go into effect on Tuesday at 7 P.M., all intercity travel is banned until Friday at 6 A.M.

In Jerusalem, travel between different zones of the city is also banned.

Within comminuties, even tighter curfew will be imposed on Wednesday at 3 P.M., ahead of the seder, and will last until Thursday at 7 A.M. During that time, Israelis in Jewish-majority cities and towns will be effectively confined to their homes, limited to staying within 100 meters (330 feet) of their residence.

Employees in workplaces considered "essential" will be exempt from the curfew, but only to go to work and return home.

Supermarkets and food delivery services will remain open until Wednesday at 3 P.M. and will then stay closed until Thursday.

All public transportation services will be suspended as of Tuesday at 8 P.M. until Sunday at 5:30 A.M.

The additional measures were added to already-intensified restrictions, which will still remain in place after the new Passover-specific rules expire.

Under the existing coronavirus restrictions, people are only allowed to leave home to buy food, pharmaceuticals or other "essential needs." These needs are defined as medical or veterinary services, welfare and social services, blood donations, political demonstrations, appearances in court and appearances in the Knesset.

Meanwhile, under a new directive approved by the Health Ministry on Tuesday, all Israelis will have to wear face masks in public as of Sunday at 7 A.M. However, a police official said they will not be able to enforce this order "since there is no sanction or fine set on not enforcing the order. All a policeman can do is ask a person to wear the mask."

A woman pushing a stroller in Tel Aviv, March 17, 2020.
A woman pushing a stroller in Tel Aviv, March 17, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

Exercise in open spaces must be done for a “short period of time” and limited to 100 meters from one’s home. Only two people living in the same house may go out together. 

Under the existing regulations, the workforce has been reduced to 15 percent, down from 30 percent until last week. In workplaces not considered "essential," no more than 10 workers will be allowed inside at a time.

Public gatherings are banned altogether, including prayer, with very specific exceptions for some ceremonies. Funerals can be held in open spaces with up to 20 participants. Circumcision ceremonies are permitted with up to ten participants, and weddings can be held but without guests. 

Prayer at the Western Wall will be allowed with up to 10 participants at each prayer service, standing at least two meters apart from one another.

Women are still allowed to visit ritual baths, but only if they have scheduled appointments. The intensified limitations on religious practice appear to curb the troubling high rate of infection in the ultra-Orthodox community. 

The only retail establishments that can remain open are grocery stores, pharmacies, stores that sell pet food, and optometrists. These stores must do their best to maintain a distance between all customers in the store and limit the number of shoppers – for every working cash register, four people are permitted. 

Restaurants have been ordered to limit their sales to deliveries only and picking up food outside of eateries is no longer allowed. Newspapers, appliances, and medical equipment can be also delivered to the customer's house. All deliveries must be placed outside the costumer's door. 

Parents are permitted to travel in order to transfer a child whose other parent lives in a separate household, and it is permissible to go outside in order to assist another person with medical problems or other difficulties for which they require urgent support. Children of hospital workers and other critical manpower can be transported to child care settings. 

When people go out for any reason, they are required to maintain a two-meter distance from other people who do not reside with them. Only two people can ride in the same car at once, excluding emergency situations.

At workplaces, people will be required to take their temperature before entering, and will not be permitted to enter with a fever – defined as 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. Workers must stay 2 meters apart, except in designated locations like hospitals, where closer proximity is permissible.

Public transportation has been drastically reduced, though not completely eliminated beyone the Passover-specific order. Travel in taxis has been limited to one passenger per ride, except in cases where accompaniment is needed for medical reasons. Passengers are required to sit in the back seat, with the windows of the vehicle open.

Protests are permitted, but can only be held in groups of 10 with a two-meter distance between participants, and a larger distance between each group. 

Violating the regulations is considered a criminal offense and lawbreakers are subject to hefty fines and a sentence of up to six months in prison.

Josh Breiner contributed to this report.

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Haredi leaders learn harsh corona lesson as Israel sends in the troopsCredit: Haaretz

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