Israel steps up actions to stem spread of Coronavirus in ultra-orthodox communities

April 3, 2020 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The Ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak was placed under an almost complete closure on Wednesday after the city has emerged as an epicentre for the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray the Minyan Ma’ariv prayer in a street in Bnei Brak, during the strict new lockdown across Israel, which caused synagogues to be closed and banned gatherings of three or more people. Bnei Brak, Mar 27, 2020. Photo by Eitan Elhadez/TPS

Health Ministry figures released Thursday showed that the number of people infected with Coronavirus in Bnei Brak has risen significantly, with an increase of 177 patients in the last 24 hours and a total of at least 900 people who have been diagnosed. A third of those tested for the virus tested positive.

Professor Ran Saar, CEO of the Maccabi health services which provides healthcare to half of Bnei Brak’s residents, told the Knesset’s special Coronavirus Committee that according to their sample testsת about 38 per cent of Bnei Brak residents are ill, a staggering 75,000 people.

In Modi’in Illit, another Ultra-Orthodox city, an increase of 15% has been registered in the last day, and there are currently over 70 people diagnosed with the virus there.

A total count of patients in Israel shows that one in every seven patients is Ultra-Orthodox.

The government on Thursday is set to approve further travel restrictions inside Beni Brak.

Under strict regulations meant to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), all public gatherings are banned.

While most Israelis upheld the lockdown orders, some ultra-orthodox neighbourhoods neglected to do so, and now the police and army are struggling to maintain order and enforce the lockdown. A former IDF general has been appointed to run the operation in Beni Brak.

In Jerusalem, police forces sealed a few synagogues that continued illegal prayer gathering despite the lockdown meant to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak live in densely populated areas, and government officials have expressed concern over what seems to be a lack of awareness regarding the Coronavirus and the risk of an outbreak.

Several organizations have launched special awareness campaigns targeting the Ultra-Orthodox community, including information posters in Yiddish.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted a significant change in the attitude of the Ultra-Orthodox community’s attitude towards Corona.

“I would like to point out that there has been a very positive change among the ultra-orthodox public. The ultra-orthodox public has well internalized the danger of the spread of the coronavirus. It is listening to the instructions and is behaving responsibly, with full backing from the rabbis,” he stated.

“This is the time for the widest possible solidarity among us, all citizens of Israel. This is the time for mutual guarantee between all citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

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