Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday evening announced tough new restrictions on public movement, prohibiting all travel between cities from Tuesday at 4 p.m. until Friday at 7 a.m.
A complete lockdown and increased enforcement will begin on Passover Eve from Wednesday at 6 p.m. until Thursday at 7 a.m. Citizens will be required to remain in their homes amid fears that going to someone else’s house for the Seder or during Passover’s intermediate days could lead to the spread of coronavirus.
“When speaking about health and your lives, it is forbidden to take shortcuts,” Netanyahu said in a televised address. “On Purim, the virus spread. I’m telling you now clearly, Passover will not be Purim. Every family will do Passover [the Seder] with their immediate family.”
The decision comes against the backdrop of a rising death toll, which climbed to 58 on Monday. Confirmed cases of the virus increased to 8,904, including 139 patients in severe condition.
A total of 109 patients currently require a ventilator, an increase of 2.8% over the past 24 hours. Some 670 people have recovered from the illness.
While urging citizens not to be complacent, Netanyahu said a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases showed “positive signs on the horizon.”
Should such trends continue, Israel will “gradually emerge” from the lockdown, he said.
The possible lifting of measures will be carried out according to levels of risk faced by different population groups, Netanyahu said.
The increased lockdown measures come at the expense of pinpoint containment measures that were discussed overnight Sunday, targeting several cities with particularly high rates of infection.
Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) towns and cities continue to be hot spots of the outbreak in Israel, with the highest number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people located in Efrat (656.1), Kiryat Ye’arim (634.4), Bnei Brak (622.5) and Kfar Chabad (585.6).
As of Monday morning, the two cities with the greatest number of confirmed cases were Jerusalem (1,316 cases) and Bnei Brak (1,222). Tel Aviv-Jaffa had the third-most cases with 370.
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman was upset that municipal workers from Ramat Gan put up fences overnight between their city and neighboring Bnei Brak, restricting pedestrian movement. The Interior Ministry subsequently ordered Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen to remove the barriers on Monday morning.
“The residents of Bnei Brak, together with all cities and other areas with large concentrations of haredi residents, should not be subject to discrimination,” said Litzman, who tested positive for coronavirus last week. “I urge the mayor of Ramat Gan to avoid provocative steps causing friction between the populations.”
Meanwhile, the first of 11 El Al planes carrying medical supplies from China landed at Ben-Gurion Airport early Monday morning, bringing medical supplies, including ventilators, masks, protective suits for medical teams and other items.
The purchase and delivery was coordinated by El Al, the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and Israel Chemicals. A second flight was en route to Israel and a third was making its way to China.
Although significant efforts have been dedicated to boosting medical equipment, the chairman of the National Program for the Prevention of Suicidality and Suicide warned of an expected “wave of elderly suicides” caused by the lengthy lockdown.
“I anticipate a wave of suicides by the elderly, a population that has a higher rate of suicide and not only during a period like the coronavirus crisis,” Prof. Gil Zaltzman told the Knesset special committee dealing with the coronavirus.
“Another population where we need to put the spotlight is the medical teams, Magen David Adom services and health professionals,” he said. “The lockdown has severe mental effects even for three years afterward. The epidemic after the epidemic will shift into our sector.”
To enable the fulfillment of commitments laid out in the government’s plan and exceed the limits of its rolling monthly budget, the Knesset Finance Committee approved amendments to the basic law on the state economy.
Based on the amendments, approximately NIS 16 billion of additional funding will be available for the National Insurance Institute. A further NIS 40b. will be available to fulfill additional promises made in the government’s financial aid package published last week, including an NIS 8b. loan fund for small businesses.
The number of unemployment benefit claimants climbed to over 1,053,500 on Monday, including almost 906,000 new claimants since the start of March. Claimants currently represent 25.1% of the workforce, the Israeli Employment Service said. Some 88.9% of new applications since the start of the outbreak were submitted by people placed on unpaid leave. A further 6.8% were made redundant.
Among almost 63,000 new applicants who registered since the start of April, a shift in the data was identified. A total of 81.1% were placed on unpaid leave, and 11.2% were made redundant.