At least 25% of Efrat quarantined due to coronavirus

Over the Purim holiday synagogue services and parties were held in the neighborhood. After the fact, it turned out that one of the participants, had been stricken by the coronavirus.

Construction near Efrat in the West Bank (photo credit: REUTERS)
Construction near Efrat in the West Bank
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Some 25% of the Efrat community has been placed under quarantine to halt the spread of the coronavirus, after 34 of its residents were stricken with the disease.
Among them is the Efrat Council’s Director-General Yehuda Schweiger, who has helped manage the community’s crisis from his phone and home computer. 
Schweiger told The Jerusalem Post by telephone that his community has not even hit the epicenter of the crisis.
“I think it will be worse not only in Efrat but in all of the country, because we see everyday that the numbers [of those who are ill] only goes up,” Schweiger said.
Purim celebrations, a tourist and a teacher were among the reasons that the numbers are so high in his Judea and Samaria community of close to 13,000 people, located a short distance away from Jerusalem. Schweiger estimates that some 3,000 are now in isolation.
Among the areas of the West Bank settlement hit hardest was the newly built Tamar neighborhood, where almost all of the 300 families, including his, are quarantined.
Over the Purim holiday synagogue services and parties were held in the neighborhood. It turned out that one of the participants had been stricken by the coronavirus.
Two days after Purim some 10 or 15 people called the local Efrat health center which then alerted the council to the number of possible coronavirus cases, Schweiger explained. 
To save time and reduce the danger, Magen David Adom volunteer paramedics tested those with symptoms for the virus, otherwise known as COVID-19. The volunteers then sent those tests to a lab in Jerusalem so that results could be delivered sooner, Schweiger said.
The results showed that almost the entire Tamar neighborhood had to be quarantined, he added.
Then a teacher in a large school in Efrat contracted the virus and someone from the US also tested positive for the disease, he added.
The council and the community immediately galvanized to help, now that simple everyday things like shopping and garbage collection became complicated, Schweiger said.
“We called all the supermarkets and all the stores that can do deliveries,” he said. The council worked to provide volunteers to help bring food to people's homes and leave them by the doors, he said.
A special time was made for people who are quarantined to put out the garbage and only if they wore masks and gloves, Schweiger added.
Daily prayer services are being done over the Zoom application on the computer as is the prayer service for someone who has died, the Kaddish, he said. The opening portion of Friday’s Shabbat service was held over Zoom, prior to sundown. 
“In a crisis people look to the community to come together,” and in Efrat people are looking for ways to bridge the isolation, he explained.
Social workers check-in with those who are sick and with the elderly under quarantine, Schweiger said.
“The staff at the council is working 24-7 as are their volunteers. It gives me a good feeling to have such a good staff and volunteers,” Schweiger said. The whole question, he said, has been how to maximize the community’s limited resources.
Since he himself is in quarantine with his family of five children and his wife, Schweiger has been working out of his house. 
“I spend all day on WhatsApp, the phone and Zoom,” he said. “I have one room in the house where I do the Zoom meetings. When I’m on the cellphone I go all around. I have to see where the best Wifi spots are,” he said. 
Not everything has been negative, he said. The family is having more time together, including meals and the children are playing with each other more. 
On Shabbat, “we prayed as a family,” and “we have tried to see how we can turn the crisis into an opportunity,” Schweiger said.