Israel appears to be set for a nationwide lockdown on the eve of the Passover holiday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently set to announce the measure at a televised address on Monday night. The lockdown is set to last from Tuesday afternoon until Friday.
A ministerial meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon to approve a lockdown for eight ultra-Orthodox communities was canceled shortly before it was due to start.
Instead, ministers were to meet remotely Monday night for a debate at which they were expected to approve new emergency regulations for the whole country.
Several reports suggested that the closure would be extended to the entire country ahead of Passover, rather than a handful of ultra-Orthodox cities, after two ultra-Orthodox ministers — Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) — protested the restrictions being rolled out largely in Haredi areas.
According to reports, the nationwide lockdown would prevent most Israelis from leaving the municipal boundaries of their own cities, although they would be allowed to shop for essential supplies in their communities.
The measures are expected to go into effect at 4 pm Tuesday and lifted at 6 am Friday. During that time, people will only be allowed to move between cities in extraordinary cases.
On the holiday itself, Wednesday evening to Thursday evening, people would not be allowed to venture any further than 100 meters from their home or residence. Police will enforce the new restrictions with an emphasis on ultra-Orthodox towns and neighborhoods where the rate of infection is greatest.
Ministers had reportedly been poised to rule on enforcing a tighter closure for only eight cities and settlements and 15 Jerusalem neighborhoods with a predominantly ultra-Orthodox population in an effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
The areas set to be included in the initial decision were Tiberias, Elad, Migdal Haemek, Beitar Illit, Ashkelon, Or Yehuda, Modiin Illit and parts of Beit Shemesh.
The Jerusalem neighborhoods were Har Nof, Bayit Vegan, Givat Mordechai, Ramat Shlomo, Sanhedria, Shmuel Hanavi, Beit Yisrael, Mea Shearim, Geula, Bucharim, Zichron Moshe, Ramot, Makor Baruch, Givat Shaul, and Kiryat Moshe.
The ministers were also expected to approve a week-long extension on the lockdown of Bnei Brak — which began on Friday after the ultra-Orthodox town recorded one of Israel’s largest outbreaks of the coronavirus.
The mayor of predominately ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak, Avraham Rubinstein, and his deputies had appealed in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking that he not impose on the city more restrictions than are imposed elsewhere, claiming his residents are being discriminated against and have already been suffering greatly.
“Our 200,000 residents have been turned to lepers," the mayor said in the letter.
Two cities - Migdal Haemek and Or Yehuda - were set to be included at the demand of Litzman and Deri, who insisted that not only areas with large ultra-Orthodox populations be put under lockdown.
The coronavirus has claimed the lives of at least 56 people in Israel as of Monday afternoon, with more than 8,400 people confirmed to be carriers of the virus.
Over 300 citations were issued by police on the road to Jerusalem in the course of the day when families were found traveling against the restrictions already in effect.
Health officials have warned the holiday period could result in further infection of coronavirus because of such violations.
i24NEWS contributed to this report
First published: 17:26 , 04.06.20