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Cabinet orders lockdowns on virus hotspot neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh, Netivot

The cabinet on Friday ordered a lockdown on several mainly ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh and Netivot, where there has been a spike in coronavirus infections in recent days.

The lockdown will start on Sunday at 6 a.m and run for at least 5 days until Friday at 6 a.m, the cabinet decided in a video conference meeting.

The decision comes after it authorized a significant easing of restrictions on the rest of the country earlier Friday morning.

The lockdown restrictions are similar to those imposed on the city of Bnei Brak and several Jerusalem neighborhoods in recent weeks, barring people from leaving. Those were lifted on Sunday.

In Netivot, the order applied to the neighborhoods of Netaim and Shalom Boinich. It also applies to the Hazani, Tzaban, Hatzalah, Brosh, Bilu and Gershonowitz streets in the southern town.

In Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem, the neighborhoods of Nahala v’Menuha and Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet were locked down.

Beit Shemesh has seen several protests in recent days against government orders keeping synagogues and yeshiva study halls closed and police have broken up several illegal gatherings.

The Health Ministry said that during the lockdown the IDF’s Home Front Command would help ensure that residents had access to food and basic services.

Most of the lockdowns have come in ultra-Orthodox cities and neighborhoods leading to accusations of discrimination. To counter that, the Health Ministry developed independent criteria of infection rates that would guide when lockdowns are imposed.

The ministry released maps showing greatly increased infection rates and infections per 1,000 people concentrated in these areas of Netivot and Beit Shemesh.

At the beginning of the month Bnei Brak was the first city placed under a strict lockdown, with residents only allowed to leave municipal boundaries to work in key industries or to receive medical care. Several Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods were put under lockdown two weeks ago.

Jerusalem has seen the highest number of infections in the country, and Bnei Brak — the ultra-Orthodox town of 200,000 near Tel Aviv — has the second highest infection numbers. Three-quarters of the cases in Jerusalem have come from majority ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

Small segments of the ultra-Orthodox community have been resistant to adhering to government orders, particularly those shutting down synagogues and yeshivas.

The lockdowns came as the government approved lifting further restrictions on businesses as it continued to gradually reopen Israel’s economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Header: Police officers close synagogues and hand out fines to ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city of Beit Shemesh who violated coronavirus regulations on April 16, 2020. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90

Original: TOI STAFF