Israel places districts in five cities into lockdown as coronavirus cases surge

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has said that a further increase in the daily rate of infection could see the reimposition of a national lockdown


Districts in five Israeli cities, including Jerusalem, are to be ordered into lockdown on Friday, as the number of new coronavirus cases in Israel hits a record high.

The cities of Beit Shemesh, Lod, Kiryat Malachi, Ramle and parts of Jerusalem have been declared ‘restricted zones’ for seven days from Friday at 1pm.

Restrictions will be lifted at 8 am on July 17.

The announcement, made in a late-night joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israeli Health Ministry, will see entry and exit to the areas limited as well as traffic and business activity curtailed.

The decision follows a recommendation on the closures that was made by the Israeli Health Ministry on Thursday and the seven-day quarantine of Beitar Illit in the West Bank from Tuesday.

Jerusalem, on Wednesday, had seen a 121 per cent increase in the number of active coronavirus cases compared to the week prior, while Miryat Malachi reported a jump of 368 per cent.

All other cities were also reporting doubling in the number of active cases.

The districts of Jerusalem that have been placed under renewed lockdown – Romema, Kiryat Sanz and Matersdorf – are all strictly-Orthodox majority areas.

Additional restrictions on schooling and educational activities for children over the age of ten have been instituted for Modiin Illit, Beit Shemesh and parts of Ashdod, while areas of Lod not included in the week-long lockdown announcement have been ordered to close for five days.  

The Health Ministry has also flagged Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, Ashdod and Jerusalem more widely as hotspots where more testing is required.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted in a press conference on Thursday that the decision to reopen bars, clubs and event halls was taken too hastily.

“Looking back,” he said, “we can say that the last part of the opening of the economy was premature.”

“I take responsibility for this step, and I take responsibility for fixing it,” the Prime Minister stated.

Mr Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz were outlining a plan designed to soften the economic toll of the past few months, that would include grants of up to $2,250 to self-employed workers and business owners as early as next week and the introduction of a social safety net for workers and businesses that wold run until June 2021.  

On Friday morning, the Israeli health ministry reported over 700 new cases since Thursday night, bringing the total number of Israelis who have tested positive for Covid-19 to 35,533.

350 Israelis have died since the virus reached Israel in February.

The latest numbers come as Health Ministry Yuli Edelstein warned that Israel could return to a full national lockdown if the number of new daily cases hit 2,000.

Between Wednesday and Thursday, 1,650 infections were recorded and almost 8,000 new cases had been confirmed between Thursday and last Friday.  

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