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Israel eases Coronavirus restrictions on ultra-orthodox hot spot, limits travel in Jerusalem

The government has called upon Israelis to wear face masks in public to better protect themselves and others from the virus.

A ministerial committee in charge of handling the coronavirus crisis decided to partially renew the closure on the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which was badly hit by the pandemic.

According to the new restrictions, the prohibition on entering and exiting Bnei Brak is only valid when residents do so by public transportation. Taxis will not be affected by the latest order.

These restrictions will come into effect Thursday at 6 P.M. until Monday.

In Jerusalem, residents living in restricted areas will be able to go to work. This order will be in effect until Sunday. Israel Police said they are preparing to enforce the new regulations.

P.M. Israeli officials disagree on proposed exit strategy

In a meeting led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss a proposal for Israel’s coronavirus exit strategy, officials on behalf of different government ministries disagree on the way forward.

The Finance Ministry seeks to see as many employees return to their workplace as soon as possible, while the Health Ministry looks to maintain as many restrictions as possible.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also in the meeting, is pushing for a reopening of the Israeli market almost entirely as early as next week, excluding people over 65, who would be asked to remain at home and receive unemployment benefits.

Bnei Brak’s deputy mayor, Gedalyahu Ben Shimon, lambasted the decision, saying the lockdown had “utterly failed” and claiming the re-installation of the checkpoints was “only to appease anti-Haredi elements.”

“We call on the ministers not to give in to cheap populism but carry out real steps to evacuate the sick from the city,” he said in a statement. “That is the only efficient solution at this time.”

The Knesset approved in first reading a proposed bill to sanction the Israel Police to track the cellphones of individuals who are in quarantine.

The police said that since March they gave about 36,000 fines to people violating the coronavirus emergency regulations, with most of the tickets handed out to people being outside the permitted 100-meter radius from their home.

In addition, the police have launched 195 investigations into people suspected of violating quarantine, and issued 129 closing warrants for businesses violating regulations.

Some 49 probes have been launched into individuals suspected of spreading fake news.

AMIR COHEN / REUTERS