The cabinet on Tuesday voted to put an overnight curfew over the upcoming Purim holidays in a bid to curb public gatherings that could lead to an increase in coronavirus infections.
The curfew will be in effect Thursday night, Friday and Saturday, starting at 8:30 pm and ending at 5 in the morning, according to a government decision.
“This is to prevent what happened to Purim last – we don’t want to repeat it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said During a tour of a vaccine center in Acre earlier Tuesday, warning that the virus was still spreading despite the Israeli vaccination campaign.
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Since the uprising began in the country last year, the government has ordered curfews, especially during major holidays, in an effort to prevent the accumulation and inevitable spread of the virus.
Purim this year starts Thursday night and lasts through Sunday. The festival is usually celebrated with costume parties as well as great general food and drinking, in events bringing family and friends together.
Purim finally, at the onset of the pandemic, had a jump in viral infections after many avoided rules against holding major events.
The cabinet meeting was held a day after Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said his ministry would push for a ban on festivals.
Synagogues and other houses of worship were allowed to open Friday morning, with limited attendance to 10 indoor and 20 outdoor, ahead of Purim.
The rules for other gatherings were simultaneously relaxed, with outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people, and indoor groups of up to 10 allowed. The previous rules limited outdoor gatherings to 10 people and indoor to five.
Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said Tuesday that officials are concerned that breaches could push infection levels up, forcing the country to revert to greater lockouts once again, and forcing members of the ultra-direct community to adherence to festival collection rules.
“We remember what happened during the previous holidays and you know the precarious situation today. We need to halt the rise in diseases that could occur as a result of over-Purim behavior, ”Ash told ultra-rectangular reporters in a special message.
“What will we say in two weeks if we have to close the education system due to an increase in disease? It is not reasonable that we should close schools because of Purim, ”he said.
Speaking hours after the military intelligence action group released data showing that transmission rates were once again going up, Ash said further closures would be inevitable if this trend continued.
“Disease rates are falling, but in the last two days the transmission rate has changed and has started to rise slightly. Is this the result of the reopening of education and the economy? It could be, but we don’t know for sure, ”he said. “If we see the levels rise, and the underlying breeding population approaches 1, we will be forced to close reopened items.”
Israel’s R-value – the average number of people suffering from coronavirus per person, based on new case numbers from the previous 10 days due to the virus’s stimulation period – is currently at 0.86, up from 0.79 on Friday , the lowest number seen in months.
The transmission rate that stays below 1 means that each carrier of an infectious virus has less than one on average – a sign of a decline in the spread of the virus.
Tuesday’s number of serious cases stood at 798, the lowest number recorded since the beginning of the year, after climbing to a high of 1,201 in mid-January.
Ministerial data showed 41,487 active virus cases were infected, including 4,677 infections diagnosed Monday, bringing the majority since the outbreak began to 757,150.
The death toll stood at 5,604 after 13 people died Monday.
Israel has seen a steady decline in morbidity, especially among high-risk groups, which are largely credited for the country’s rapid vaccination campaign.