Coronavirus in Israel: Gov’t to meet Tuesday about Purim curfew

Health and Transportation ministries reduce number of people allowed into Israel each day to 200, only days after they voted to increase it to 2,000.

SHOPPING for Purim costumes at a toy store in Kiryat Ekron ahead of Purim, this week. (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
SHOPPING for Purim costumes at a toy store in Kiryat Ekron ahead of Purim, this week.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
The government is going to meet on Tuesday to decide whether to impose a night curfew during the upcoming festival of Purim, and to discuss a plan to return students in grades 7-10 to school next week in contrast with the recommendations of the Health Ministry.
Purim falls on Thursday night and Friday, except in Jerusalem, where the festival will last until Sunday this year, in an uncommon three-day celebration.
The restrictions already in place for the holiday require people to celebrate only with their nuclear family but ban all other forms of parties and gatherings, while synagogues can choose to operate at 50% of their capacity only for green passport holders or with a maximum of ten people indoors and twenty people outdoors.
Health officials decided to push for stricter regulations after multiple reports of Israelis organizing events in defiance of the rules.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein will propose that the government should impose a night curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. from Thursday to Sunday, when people will be required to remain within 1,000 meters of their home.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he asked the ministry to present the government with an outline that will still allow people to celebrate while preventing an increase in morbidity. Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz also called for further restrictions on Sunday, but his Blue and White Party might require limiting the curfew to red cities.
Gantz also expressed an urgency to return students in grade 7-10 to classrooms. According to Channel 12, the plan that the government is expected to discuss would allow students in green and yellow cities, as well as students from families where parents are vaccinated in other cities, to return to school after the Purim break.
But in an interview with the channel, Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy stressed the importance of waiting until March 7, the date indicated by the ministry for the beginning of the next round of openings.
Earlier in the day, Edelstein, Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Miri Regev decided that the number of Israelis returning from abroad allowed in the country each day will be reduced to 200.
This came a day after the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee decided to extend the mandatory isolation in coronavirus hotels for those flying from abroad by only 24 hours – until midnight tonight – instead of until March 1 as the government had requested last week.
ON SUNDAY,, the number of returnees allowed in the country was expanded to about 2,000 from about 600 in previous weeks. For the past month, regulations have required all returnees to quarantine in a coronavirus hotel, except for people who are fully vaccinated or for specific humanitarian cases.
When the committee met to vote on extending the measure, however, committee chairman Yaakov Asher expressed his doubts about the system, highlighting that according to the data, only about 30% of returnees had actually been sent to hotels.
Asher stressed that while he did not like the idea of imposing some form of electronic surveillance to ensure that people quarantine at home, it would probably be better than forcing them to remain in a hotel. The MKs present at the committee meeting supported his proposal.
According to a release by the Transportation Ministry, the limit of 200 returnees per day will be implemented until the mandatory quarantine in hotels is restored or an alternative solution is found.
While the authorities have been looking into the possibility of giving those who enter quarantine an electronic device to trace them, the solution presents several problematic issues, including legal difficulties that would need to be resolved by full legislation.
“Home isolation for returnees from abroad is not effective enough: We uncovered too many violations,” Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish said. “Everyone understands the fear of allowing in different virus variants, and the decision to cancel the hotels means opening the door for them.”
The deputy minister explained that the government is in the process of deciding whether to promote the necessary legislation for electronic surveillance.
“The government’s solution is that everyone will go to hotels, and those who receive a negative test will be able to leave and isolate at home using a digital bracelet,” he revealed.
The decision to limit the number of people entering the country to 200 is also going to affect new immigrants, and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata vehemently opposed it.
Also on Monday, Israel reached the goal of three million people vaccinated with both doses of the coronavirus, while some 1.4 million had received their first shot.
Some 3,041 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in the previous day, with 6.3% of tests returning positive.
Of all those infected, 801 were in serious condition. The death toll stood at 5,593.