As the national battle with the coronavirus outbreak continues, Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion explained on Wednesday what steps the nation’s capital is taking to protect residents and to prepare for a full lockdown that will be announced within two days.
The mayor stated the elderly are the municipality’s main concern. The city is doing whatever it can so that those who are over 60-year-old can stay at home. Thousands of volunteers are coordinating with the municipality to keep in contact with the city’s elderly residents and provide aid as needed. The municipality is in contact with 21,000 elderly homes in Jerusalem.
Lion stressed that residents must understand that they should not leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.
The mayor discussed what the lockdown would entail with Home Front Command and Israel Police on Wednesday, but added that details of what such a measure would entail were still somewhat unclear. He added that it seemed unlikely that all movement would be forbidden.
“You can’t close the city completely so that no one leaves and no one comes. It’s also definitely hard to enforce such a thing. On the other hand, at the end of the day, people will not leave their homes,” said Lion.
“We’re building more on people listening to and following instructions on their own than on active enforcement,” said the mayor, adding that those caught outside in the lockdown will need to explain what they’re doing outside.
Groceries, pharmacies and essential services will be open even in the lockdown, Lion said. The mayor believes the only difference between the current situation and a lockdown will be that the lock down will be enforced by Israel Police. The mayor clarified he still is unsure of the details of the lockdown, including whether restaurants will still takeout and delivery, but that he believes that it won’t be much different then what is currently happening.
The Jerusalem Municipality is preparing to ensure essential services in the case of the lockdown.
The mayor added that discussions about a drive-through coronavirus testing center have been taking place with the municipality and that a center should be set up soon, possibly in Teddy Stadium.
Magen David Adom is preparing to roll out such testing centers, in which individuals would drive up to large medical tents with their windows open and be swabbed without having to leave their vehicle.
Leon was worried that the 11 crossings between the PA and Jerusalem were open up until Tuesday. He clarified that as of Wednesday evening, the crossings with the PA were closed. The mayor stressed that Kafr Aqab and Shuafat are considered part of east Jerusalem and are therefore under the authority of the municipality. East Jerusalem residents, but not Palestinians living in Areas A and B, can enter the city through Qalandiya crossing, located in Kafr Aqab.
Amid reports that haredi institutions were breaking Health Ministry directives, the mayor stated that almost all, if not all, haredi institutions in the city are closed and are following instructions. Institutions in east Jerusalem are also following the Health Ministry’s instructions. Leon stressed that everyone in the city understands that regulations must be followed.
“If you don’t follow these instructions, the first person you’ll infect are actually the people from your community and therefore I think that everyone here has the responsibility [to follow the instructions],” said Leon. The PA and east Jerusalem are also following these instructions, and the mayor stressed that he hadn’t heard of any exceptions.
Some public areas have been disinfected and the municipality is preparing to disinfect more areas. But disinfecting takes place in areas with localized outbreaks and so far there are no such areas in the city, according to Leon.
Like the rest of Israel, Jerusalem is also working to find ways to help businesses survive the lockdown.
The mayor announced that the municipality is examining establishing a “virtual mall” for Jerusalem businesses, which will be free-of-cost for businesses to use. All businesses with a website will be able to join and be featured on the site.
A fund will be established in order to loan money to businesses. The fee for opening a file for a business is NIS 500, but the municipality will cover the fee.
Facility fees for business have been forgiven until June 30. Arnona payments for April have been delayed for a month so that the payments can be made over three months.
“Concerning what comes next, we’ll see how we move forward with the difficulties and how many more discounts we can offer to businesses. I hope this period will be short and not very long,” said Lion.