Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
IDF soldiers stand guard at a roadblock in a Haredi neighborhood of Jerusalem, April 19, 2020.

The national coronavirus knowledge and information center in the Military Intelligence Directorate has warned that the virus-related morbidity in Israeli Haredi communities that were tested is very high compared to the situation in other parts of the country, Kan 11 News reported Wednesday morning. This week, approximately 14% of all new patients were identified in the Haredi cities of Bnei Brak, Elad, Beitar Illit, Modi’in Illit, and Beit Shemesh.

On Tuesday night, the Health Ministry reported that 459 new infections were diagnosed in the country, with 40 patients in severe condition, out of whom 27 are on artificial ventilators. The death toll is Israel reached 308.

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The center warns that the relatively high density of these cities, and the difficulty of isolating the patients in the Haredi enclaves across the country demands an immediate response in the areas of enforcement, isolation, publicity and assistance to the population, in order to quickly stop the spread of the pandemic.

Restrictions on movement have been enforced as of Wednesday morning in Elad and in several neighborhoods in T’veria, after the special ministerial committee on the coronavirus declared them “restricted areas” Tuesday night, due to the rapid increase in the morbidity rates there.

The areas currently under confinement include the entire Elad municipality and the neighborhoods of Ramat T’veria Bet, Ramat Tveria Gimel, Sh’chunat 200, T’veria Illit, and the Ben Gurion neighborhood in T’veria.

In accordance with the restrictions, which will remain in place for one week, admission in and out of the restricted areas is prohibited except for work or the high school matriculation exams.

Coronavirus Commission Chairwoman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud) on Wednesday morning responded on Reshet Bet radio to allegations that Haredi areas are closed down while Tel Aviv remains open despite an outbreak there, saying: “The policy is to close down the hot spots so as not to reach additional, rampant closures. South Tel Aviv requires attention, but we do not believe that closure should be imposed.”

Which didn’t really answer the question, other than to suggest that Tel Aviv is too politically powerful to be placed under a curfew.

As of Tuesday night, Jerusalem leads the country with the highest number of current cases – 563, with Tel Aviv second with 550, and Bnei Brak third with 409. However, while the rate of patients per 1,000 residents in Jerusalem is 0.56, in Tel Aviv it is 0.99, and in Bnei Brak a truly worrisome 1.93. In Elad, which has 82 current diagnosed patients, the ratio per 1,000 is 1.69.

Yamina Chairman and former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told Reshet Bet said the renewed outbreak could have been prevented: “I posted a second wave prevention program about three weeks ago, I submitted it to the Prime Minister and the Health Minister – basically the idea is to set up an immediate emergency program, pull out the known carriers of the virus and avoid any additional lockdowns.”

Bennett stressed that “A further [all out] closure must be avoided at all costs. I meet ordinary citizens who are anxious about their livelihood. There is an alternative, but the government does nothing. There are a million unemployed, but the government’s go-to solution, instead of making extreme efforts, is the closure which destroys people’s livelihood.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Tuesday night that new cities could be added to the restricted areas on Wednesday: “We will also check additional localities. The surest way to stop the epidemic is that all Israeli citizens wear masks and keep their distance. In any case, tomorrow we will examine other localities and we will announce our decisions accordingly.”

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