Originally published in CBN News
Israeli authorities will enforce a strict curfew starting on Wednesday as families across the nation huddle in their homes for a quiet, isolated Passover.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the new restrictions, including a curfew, in an address Monday evening.
“On Wednesday, before the Passover seder, everyone will stay at home from 18:00 until 07:00 on Thursday. I know that this is very onerous but there is simply no choice. We will strictly enforce the lockdown,” he said.
A general country-wide lockdown and ban on travel between cities begins Tuesday afternoon and ends on Friday. Hebrew media reports the ban could last longer.
Netanyahu said the new restrictions were meant to avoid the crowds and large celebrations that characterized the Purim holiday last month.
“We saw what happened one month ago with the events of Purim. Infection with the virus spread in broad circles. I will say it here as clearly as possible: Passover will not be Purim,” the premier said.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Israel reached 9,003 by Tuesday morning. Some 60 people have died of the infection and 153 are in serious condition.
Despite the rise in cases and the government crackdown on Passover, Netanyahu indicated the COVID-19 outbreak is improving and restrictions could slowly start to ease after Passover.
“I am pleased to inform you that there are positive signs on the horizon,” the prime minister said. “We are moving forward with preparations for the scenarios regarding the exit from the crisis.”
Netanyahu explained that Israel will loosen restrictions gradually, with the least at-risk populations exiting the lockdown first and those greatest at-risk exiting last.
Experts hope the gradual release on restrictions will jump-start Israel’s economy, which took a hard blow when the outbreak began.
Before the crisis, Israel’s unemployment rate was at just 4 percent, but now it stands at 25 percent. The southern city of Eilat is hit the hardest and has an unemployment rate of 69.3 percent.
Yesterday the Cabinet decided on an emergency budget of NIS 90 billion to help the country. In the meantime, Netanyahu is urging Israelis to buy products made in Israel to further help the economy.
Netanyahu reminded the nation that Passover is about remembering how God delivered them from Egypt, and they will fight this new obstacle with tenacity.
“In every generation, we have overcome challenges and it seems that in the past 100 years we have not seen a challenge such as this, but I know that even though this is a global challenge being experienced by all humanity, I know that we are getting through it together and that we are getting through it successfully. Together we are writing a hard chapter but it is a great chapter in the history of our people and state.”