Israel calls nationwide curfew to stop family gatherings for seder

There are fears some families will not abide voluntarily by social distancing rules



Israel will go into nearly full curfew on Seder night as the police enforces a shutdown of all shops from 6pm on Wednesday and allow citizens to roam only 100 metres from their homes.

The decision was taken by the government over fears that some families would not abide voluntarily by the social distancing rules and would still attempt to gather in larger groups beyond the nuclear families already living in the same home. 

“We have no choice,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a televised briefing from his official residence on Monday night. 

He remainsis in self-quarantine after coming in contact with health minister Yaakov Litzman.

Mr Netanyahu referred to the Purim parties a month ago which medical experts believe contributed to the infection. 

“We can’t allow Pesach to be like Purim,” he said during the broadcast. “Every family will observe the festival on its own and sit to Seder with only the limited family living together in the same home.” 

The curfew will be preceded on Wednesday morning by a total shutdown of all public transport. 

In recent days, police have stopped some of intercity buses still running and questioning families.

In some cases they have been forced to return their homes upon learning they were on their way to relatives’ homes, usually grandparents.

Arab towns will not be under the same curfew, but Mr Netanyahu said that the same conditions will be applied to Christian communities around Easter and Muslim neighbourhoods around Ramadan.

Israel has been under a growing shutdown for the past four weeks but essential employees are still allowed to travel to their places of work and food shops are open.

A week ago, for the first time, unauthorised travel between cities was prohibited for three days until Friday to reduce movement before Seder night. 

Police checkpoints have already been set up at the entrances to many Israeli cities and towns and the police have been reinforced by hundreds of soldiers. 

As of Monday night, there were 8,904 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 57 had died. 140 were in serious condition with 109 on respirators. 

The health authorities are cautiously optimistic that the hospitals can continue to handle the situation but the concerns remain over the high infection rate within the Strictly Orthodox community, which could still lead to a surge in the number of patients in critical situation.

Proposals to impose full closures on Bnei Brak and other Charedi towns were considered by Mr Netanyahu but rejected due to opposition from his Strictly Orthodox coalition partners in government.

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