JERUSALEM, Israel – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an emergency order Thursday evening requiring all Israeli citizens to stay indoors for the next seven days.
Before the announcement, the Israeli government urged people to stay at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, now it is mandatory.
“This isn’t a request, this isn’t a recommendation, but a binding requirement that will be enforced,” the prime minister said in a televised statement.
"There has not been anything like this since the establishment of the state," he said. "There has actually been no such thing like this in the last 100 years."
“It is not going to be easy; I am asking for your cooperation.”
Israelis are only allowed to leave their homes to do the following:
- Come and go to work
- Receive medical treatment
- Donate blood
- Buying food, medicine and other essential products and services
- Unorganized sports in groups no larger than five people
- Participating in demonstrations
- Attending a wedding, funeral or prayer
- Helping someone with disabilities who required assistance
- A brief walk near one’s home without getting into close contact with anyone outside of their home
- Unspecified Vital needs
Business owners are prohibited from opening malls or entertainment centers. However, stores that sell food and hygiene products will remain open. Business owners who violate these rules and stay open will face six months in jail or a fine.
“The purpose of these instructions — to ensure as few people will be infected and will infect [others],” Netanyahu said.
While the new regulations do not constitute a total lockdown, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Wednesday that a total lockdown in Israel is inevitable.
As of Friday morning, 677 Israelis have been infected with COVID-19. No one has died, but with six patients in serious condition, health experts believe there will be fatalities soon.
Israel saw a sharp increase in cases after the Health Ministry boosted testing for the virus from 500-700 tests per day to more than 2,000 tests. The number of tests will increase to 3,000 per day by Sunday and 5,000 per day next week.
The Mossad spy agency reportedly brought some 100,000 test kits to Israel this week, however, the health ministry said the kits are incomplete and do not have swabs.
An Israeli court also blocked a mass surveillance measure the Israeli government passed, which allowed the Shin Bet security agency to track Israelis who have recently been in contact with COVID-19 from their phones.
The High Court of Justice court said such mass surveillance cannot continue without oversight from Israel’s parliament.
“If the Knesset does not establish the relevant committee to enable parliamentary oversight of these [emergency] ordinances, no use can be made of the powers granted in them [after Tuesday at noon] and until a different decision is made,” the ruling reads.
The decision allows the Shin Bet to continue tracking the location and movements of Israelis for the next five days but forbids the Israel Police from acting on the information.