Israel Under Unprecedented Passover Curfew to Flatten Coronavirus Curve

The country's security forces are enforcing a lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 as the Jewish holiday begins. Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier this week that the coming days will determine the direction of the epidemic

Photo: Israel Police

A nationwide lockdown went into effect in Israel on April 8 at the start of the Passover holiday as the country battled to get a grip on the coronavirus outbreak.

Thousands of policemen backed by Border Police forces were deployed around the country to enforce the lockdown. Roadblocks were set up within cities, on the outskirts of cities and on intercity roads backed by helicopters and drones, according to the Israeli media.  

As of 3pm, stores were closed and traffic was barred within cities and towns.  Citizens were instructed to stay at home from 6pm until 7am the following morning, and travel no more than 100 meters from their residences if they go outside.

The country's main roads are usually full of traffic in the hours before the traditional festive meal on first night of Passover, Israel's biggest family gathering of the year. But today, with Israelis living under stringent restrictions on movement, those roads were nearly empty.   

A ban on travel between cities is in effect from the evening of April 7 until the morning of April 9.  Public transportation was halted on the night of April 7, and is to resume in the morning of April 12. The lockdown does not apply to towns with a non-Jewish majority.  

As of April 8, Israel had about 9,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 70 deaths.    

In a nationally televised address earlier this week in which he announced the latest restrictions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Israelis to celebrate Passover only with the family members living with them at home, saying "there is simply no choice. We will strictly enforce the lockdown."  

"We are in a fateful week, for the world and for the State of Israel," he said. "It is fateful because in the battle to block the coronavirus, these days will determine the direction - progress or retreat, and for many people, life or death."

He expressed hope that some restrictions will be lifted after the seven-day holiday, which ends in the evening of April 15.