600,000 Israelis head for lockdown as pandemic spirals out of control

It’s not clear when the lockdown will take effect. The list of cities will only be finalized on Sunday.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Thirty-one cities in Israel are expected to enter lockdown. It means 600,000 citizens will be placed under curfew. The corona cabinet made its decision on Thursday in the wake of spiking corona numbers.

The cities, which fall into the “red” category in the ‘Traffic Light’ system of Israel’s corona czar Ronni Gamzu, are mainly those with either Arab or ultra-Orthodox (haredi) populations. Gamzu says that 28 percent of incidences are within the Arab sector and 22 percent in the haredi.

It’s not clear when the lockdown will take effect. The list of cities will only be finalized on Sunday.

Even within “red” cities there are different levels. In those considered most serious, call them ‘bright red’ cities, the restrictions will be especially severe, reports Israel Hayom on Friday, with no entry or exit from the city allowed, residents restricted to a 500 meter area from their home, the closing of businesses not considered “essential,” and limits on public transportation. There will also be no schooling, outside of nursery schools and special needs programs.

In what might be described as ‘light red’ cities, the curfew begins at night. Schools follow the same program as ‘bright red’ cities. The idea is to give the Traffic Light system a couple of weeks to work in the hopes there will be an improvement and it won’t be necessary to take the next, more drastic step of a general closure on those cities as well.

The haredi populations in red cities are accusing the government of persecution. Former Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who is haredi, blasted the corona czar, saying “This is part of your arranged plan to close synagogues on the holidays.” The Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, take place starting on the evening of Sept. 18 and Sept. 27 respectively.

The haredim have felt from the start of the pandemic that they have been unfairly singled out, as cases of secular Jews ignoring the health guidelines are plentiful. However, haredi communities have been recording higher than average cases.

Confirmed cases in Israel have been rising steadily. Then they spiked from Tuesday to Wednesday. On Tuesday, there were 2,183 cases and on Wednesday, 3,150. The number dropped slightly on Thursday to 2,766.

There are 416 listed in serious condition with health observers saying the number will reach 600 within two weeks.

The number of dead is 991. It’s expected to surpass 1,000 by the end of the weekend.