Northern Israel placed in lockdown over 'severe outbreak' of coronavirus

The new coronavirus regulations announced by Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday were not imposed on Israel's Arab-majority cities.

Police at a temporary "checkpoint" on road number 1 outside Jerusalem on April 8, 2020, to check if people are not disobeying the governments orders on a lockdown, in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Police at a temporary "checkpoint" on road number 1 outside Jerusalem on April 8, 2020, to check if people are not disobeying the governments orders on a lockdown, in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Residents of the Galilee in northern Israel were told to stay home due to a massive outbreak of coronavirus in the area, predominantly in Arab villages, N12 reported Wednesday. Police and military forces were called to the area.

The Health Ministry instructed the residents of four Arab villages in the North to remain in their residences, reporting high rates of coronavirus contraction. According to the report, since the "drive-in" testing compounds were established this week, some 31 tested positive, of whom 23 are residents of Deir al-Assad, four from Nahf, three from Ba'ana and one from Majd al-Kroum.

The new coronavirus regulations announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, placing nearly all Israeli cities in quarantine until Thursday morning, were not imposed on Israel's Arab-majority cities.

"I am warning [the ministry] yet again about worryingly low rates of [coronavirus] testing in the Arab localities, one that may lead to a catastrophe of unseen proportions," Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen said on Twitter. "The Arab society is missing tens of thousands of tests," he said.


Jabareen added the testing should be carried out "immediately, so we would be able to have a better picture compared to the general population. The Arab citizens constitute 20% of the population, yet they are less than 10% of all those tested" for coronavirus.
Joint List MK Mtanes Shehadeh tweeted on Wednesday evening that in the Arab community “[the] issue [is not] with following [health] instructions,” but that COVID-19 tests began later among Arab communities than Jewish communities.  
He added that his party will continue to work alongside the authorities to increase the number coronavirus tests and prepare a suitable plan of action ahead of Ramadan.     

Joint List Health Committee head MK Ahmed Tibi said Wednesday noon he had reached an agreement with MDA head Eli Bin and Deir elAssad council head Ahmed Dabbah on opening a drive-in coronavirus testing facility in the village following the reports. 

Dr. Tibi reportedly asked the village's residents to call MDA and get tested in case symptoms appear. "We have all joined to combat the spread of coronavirus," he said, calling on citizens to "follow the Health Ministry's instructions, stay home and avoid gatherings."

The municipality of Karmiel announced Wednesday noon it would block the city entrance following the Health Ministry's report of high infection rates in neighboring Arab villages. The Galilee itself, which constitutes most of Israel's North District, is predominantly Arab and is home to 60% of Israel's Arab population.

"According to our estimates, in [this] area which is home to around 150 thousand residents, there are multiple [coronavirus] carriers...which have not been diagnosed," said Karmiel Mayor Moshe Koninski, adding that he "sees the importance in continuing the testing and the movement restrictions, as well as following the [Health Ministry's] instructions in localities with bigger outbreaks."

Representatives of the Arab-Israeli community previously raised alarms regarding the Health Ministry's failure to test the Arab population, warning that the state's apparent inaction may cause a massive outbreak.

"There is a distinct lack of coronavirus testing in the Arab towns," Tibi said late March. "This is the responsibility of the Health Ministry and MDA," he said. "This is a serious situation that must be stopped immediately," he said. "Any Jewish or Arab carrier might cause an outbreak if not discovered and isolated or brought to treatment."