İrem UZUN -TDO- Israel has set up roadblocks to seal off an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town due to its high rate of coronavirus cases, ordering in soldiers to support the residents. The new designation allows authorities to tighten curbs on public movement. Police units, wearing surgical masks and gloves, moved swiftly early on Friday to cordon off important intersections around the town and enforce the new rules.
Residents of Bnei Brak, just outside Tel Aviv, will only be allowed out in exceptional circumstances. Only some key workers will be allowed in. The latest measures mean residents will only be allowed out of the town on a case-by-case basis. Non-residents - other than security forces, essential services workers and journalists - will not be allowed in. About 4,500 elderly residents - those deemed most at risk - will be evacuated from the town and quarantined in specially designated hotels, according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper. Soldiers from the Israeli military's Paratroopers Brigade were being deployed to help the Homefront Command, the paper said. Bnei Brak is only second to the much larger city of Jerusalem in terms of the total number of coronavirus cases. On Thursday, the head of a health service used by about half the population of Bnei Brak said about 38% of residents were likely to have the virus, and that there were probably tens of thousands of cases which had not been officially confirmed.
Another looming challenge for Israeli authorities is the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover, which is usually celebrated with family and friends and this year begins next Wednesday, April 8. The government has urged Israelis to celebrate only with those living in their house, but the deteriorating situation in Bnei Brak has shown that the authorities' control over ultra-Orthodox communities can be limited.