Israelis prepare for nationwide lockdown as death toll hits 60

Number of Israelis testing positive continues to rise, death toll now 60 as curfew set to begin Tuesday afternoon with ban on inter-city travel.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The number of Israelis infected with the coronavirus passed 9,000 Tuesday as the country prepared for a nationwide curfew forcing people to stay at home during the start of the Passover holiday.

Health ministry statistics showed 9,006 people have tested positive for the virus with 708 hospitalized,  including 153 in serious condition and 113 of them connected to ventilators to assist their breathing. The death toll stands at 60 while 683 Israelis have fully recovered from the virus.

Israelis started lining up early Tuesday morning at supermarkets across the country in advance of the curfew announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the nation Monday evening that it was “a fateful week.”

According to a draft document submitted for approval by the cabinet Tuesday morning, intercity traffic will be banned from 2 p.m. Tuesday until Saturday evening, longer than what Netanyahu had said in his televised speech, Ynet reported.

The week-long Passover holiday begins Wednesday evening, and traditionally millions of Israelis get together with extended families for the Seder, a festive meal at which the story of the biblical exodus from slavery is told.

In order to stop the spread of the virus, the government decided to enforce the travel ban and curfew, keeping everyone at home.

“Every family will have the Passover Seder on its own,” Netanyahu said. “Celebrate only with the immediate family members who are now with you at home.”

“I know that this is very onerous but there is simply no choice. We will strictly enforce the lockdown.”

Health officials said the steps taken so far had proven effective in fighting the pandemic.

“The rate of increase in patients and patients in serious condition is moderate and lower than we feared, so this means that the steps we have taken so far are successful,” Health Ministry Deputy Director Prof. Itamar Grotto told Ynet, emphasizing the public had to continue following health guidelines over the holiday.

The education system has been shut down and businesses are either closed or have been working with minimum staff for the past few weeks, but news of the impending curfew drove Israelis out to supermarkets to stock up.

“I was simply in shock,” said Dana, 42, from Tel Aviv. “The lineup is from the front door to the end of the huge parking lot … it’s at least two hours to get in.”