Hundreds attended a party in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night ahead of a curfew planned for the weekend of the Purim holiday meant to prevent large scale gatherings, according to Israeli media.
Pictures and videos from the scene showed crowds of revelers celebrating in tight quarters in the market, many without masks. Police arrived at the scene and dispersed the crowds, but dozens of people returned to the area and continued celebrating shortly after the police left.
In a tweet on Thursday morning, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai condemned "anyone who partied in the streets last night," asserting that in doing so, they were "disrespecting both the health of the public and our incredible efforts at stopping the pandemic."
He added that he has instructed the local authorities to act swiftly over the Purim holiday weekend to ensure that large crowds do not form and to enforce coronavirus regulations.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also called out the party-goers, saying that "any rise in infection will be under your name, businesses will close down because of you, the loss of human life will be on your conscience.
"You see the situation, you see how even younger people succumb to high infection rates, how death comes to all ages," he said.
"We warn every day on every possible stage about the importance of adhering to the guidelines, and maintaining the health of us all, in order to defeat the dangerous coronavirus outbreak – and in the end we encounter the outrageous images of irresponsible mass celebrations and gatherings," said coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nahman Ash in response to the reports on the party in Tel Aviv.
"The responsibility is also in the hands of the public, and it is very unfortunate that this is how they choose to behave these days, when the morbidity figures are still high," he said.
Jordan, 26, one of the participants in the party, told Ynet that "we did nothing wrong. All in all I went out with friends to drink beer and somehow suddenly a party started. It was very strange, but on the other hand everyone was young. After about an hour the cops came and told everyone to go home."
The large party comes a day before a night curfew takes effect on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to prevent large parties and celebrations over the Purim holiday due to concerns of a possible outbreak.
The current set of restrictions includes a night curfew
between 8:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday night. The authorities are considering extending the curfew to Sunday, when Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem.
During these hours, intercity public transportation will be reduced, all nonessential businesses will need to shut down and people will not be allowed more than 1,000 meters from their homes for nonessential reasons. Dozens of roadblocks will also be implemented.
Gatherings and parties will be prohibited during the Purim holiday and families are encouraged to have the traditional holiday meal with only nuclear family members.
While infection rates were decreasing earlier this week, the R reinfection number began rising again in recent days, raising concerns that celebrations on Purim could spark another spike in infection rates.
Last year, a large outbreak was sparked by Purim celebrations, pushing the country into a nationwide lockdown that lasted until shortly after
Rossella Tercatin contributed to this report.