Bnei Brak declared ‘restricted zone’ as police, army evacuate thousands

Confirmed coronavirus infections soar past 7000, deaths climb to 36 as police, army move to evacuate thousands from city hard-hit by epidemic.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel news

A thousand police officers supported by IDF soldiers began evacuating thousands of residents Friday from Bnei Brak after the government declared the city hard hit by the coronavirus as a “restricted zone.”

Thursday night the government passed emergency directives to severely restrict movement in and out the areas with a highest per-capita coronavirus infection rates. Officials then ordered the evacuation of 4,500 elderly Bnei Brak residents to hotels converted to emergency isolation centers in order to protect them from the rapid spread of coronavirus in the city, where it is feared one in three residents might be infected.

Police set up at least 50 roadblocks and were not allowing anyone in or out except for special cases. Unarmed IDF troops backed up the police but were themselves not enforcing the restrictions. An additional 1000 soldiers were being deployed to help Home Front Command soldiers who are already distributing food, medicine, and other services in the city of 200,000 located just east of Tel Aviv.

Lockdowns are also expected in the predominantly ultra-orthodox cities of Elad, Modi’in-Ilit, Beitar-Ilit, and Ramat Beit Shemesh. Infection rates are higher there due to a number of factors, including the high population density and authorities imposing tighter restrictions only after large gatherings that occurred last month during the Purim holiday.

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As of Friday morning, 7030 Israelis were confirmed to have been infected dead and 732 people are hospitalized, 115 of them in serious condition and 95 of those breathing with the assistance of ventilators, the Ministry of Health reported.

There have been 36 coronavirus-related deaths in Israel, with the death rate increasing over the past few days. Most of the fatalities have been elderly, with the youngest victim to date being 49. However, 22-year-old Afik Suissa from Ashdod was transferred in critical condition Friday to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv after doctors were unable to oxygenate his tissues, Kan Radio reported.

There was some positive news in that 357 of those infected have recovered and been declared healthy, the ministry reported.

Under government-mandated home isolation the unemployment rate continued to rise to record levels with 25 percent of Israel’s workforce either on unpaid leave or fired.

Israel’s Magen David Adom national ambulance service is operating 12 drive-through test centers around the country, urging anyone in solitary confinement with symptoms to call their national hotline for approval to be tested. Those too sick to drive themselves will be tested at home, MDA spokesman Zaki Heller said.