Streets eerily empty as Israelis adapt to new ‘corona routine’

Israelis appear to be heeding dire warnings from Netanyahu and health officials, staying home to slow coronavirus spread.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

It may have taken longer than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and health officials wanted, but normally bustling Israelis have apparently listened to his dire “life and death” warning and are staying off the streets, Ynet reported Thursday.

Streets, beaches and parks across the country were almost completely empty.

Like other cities around the country, Tel Aviv closed parks and sports facilities, with the office lights on the city hall building arranged to light up with the words “we’re at home.” In the port city of Haifa the streets were almost empty throughout the day, malls were shut and the beaches and parks also empty of visitors.

The government repeatedly issued guidelines warning people, forced home by the shutdown of the education system and non-essential businesses, to stay at home, but if they had to go out to keep a two-meter (six-foot) distance from anybody else so as not to spread the coronavirus.

However, at the beginning of the week many Israelis were still going out and congregating in public places. That prompted an impassioned plea from Netanyahu Tuesday in which he admonished those “who still do not understand the magnitude of the danger.”

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“This is not child’s play. This is not a vacation. This is a matter of life and death,” Netanyahu said.

The warnings, including the threat that a general curfew was imminent, came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel began to increase exponentially.

The small crowds at the beaches and in parks appear to have given way to what Ynet labeled the “Corona routine” – the somber sight of deserted streets and places of entertainment.

Jerusalem residents also adopted the new reality and stayed home, with empty playgrounds and only light traffic around shops and supermarkets in the capital. Mayor Moshe Leon said Wednesday that the city was preparing for the possibility of a nationwide closure, keeping essential food stores and services operating.

Leon said a “drive-in” coronavirus testing center was being prepared at the city’s main soccer stadium. People needing to be tested could stay in their cars as a technician wearing protective gear would administer the test, then drive back to quarantine themselves at home without coming close to other people.

In the coastal city of Netanya north of Tel Aviv, only a few people were out on the sidewalk near one of the city’s large shopping malls.

“People are really scared,” a woman named Oshera told Ynet. “They are shut in at home. They should impose a curfew already.”

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Nearby, a man named Dvir said, “We must not reach the situation like it is in Italy and Spain.”