Israeli Cabinet imposes curfew for festive Jewish holiday of Purim


dpa/GNA – A night-time lockdown is set to begin in Israel later on Wednesday, when the festive Jewish holiday of Purim begins, another effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Purim usually involves large fancy dress parties across the country for both children and adults.

Last year, a mass outbreak of coronavirus infections followed the holiday. Officials are concerned about a repeat of this.

The Cabinet approved the measure late on Thursday. It will begin at 8:30 pm and end at 5 am every day until early on Sunday.

The lockdown rules will require residents to stay within 1 kilometre of their home during these hours and will prohibit them from visiting anyone else’s residence.

“To remove doubt, it will be emphasized that, during all hours of the day, events may not be held that deviate from the regulations on gatherings (10 people in a closed space and 20 people in an open one),” the prime minister’s office and Health Ministry said in a joint statement.

They emphasized that this rules out staging fancy dress parades, gatherings and performances, which usually mark the holiday.

While the number of new coronavirus infections has recently fallen in Israel, it is still relatively high despite a successful vaccination campaign.

A total of 4,677 new cases were recorded on Tuesday.

“The vaccines should not put us into euphoria,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in a tweet on Wednesday, urging people to follow the rules.

According to Edelstein, more than 4.5 million people have had their first vaccination, of whom more than 3.1 million have also received a second dose.

The authorities are working to encourage more people to get vaccinated. Israel has a population of around 9.3 million, of which around 6.4 million can currently be vaccinated. The rest are younger than 16-years-old and the vaccination is not available to them at this stage.

On Tuesday, the Israeli parliament passed a law which temporarily allows the Health Ministry to pass on information about those who have not yet been vaccinated to the local authorities, the Education Ministry and officials in the Welfare Ministry.

This includes their name, identity number, address and telephone number.

The law aims to enable these bodies to encourage people to be vaccinated. It will be valid for three months or until the end of the state of emergency.

In order to reduce any invasions of privacy and prevent the misuse of the information, the law stipulates that the information will only be used to encourage immunization and prohibits using it for any other reason. The information will have to be deleted no later than 60 days after receipt.

But members of the opposition were critical of the law.

Lawmaker Tamar Zanbderg of the left-wing Meretz party warned that transmitting such data is “a slippery slope” and can reach the wrong hands. “There is a danger of damaging public trust here,” she added.

Labour party leader Merav Michaeli accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “taking away citizens’ right to privacy about their medical information.”

Parliament member Haim Katz defended the law, asking: “Is the value of privacy more important than the value of life?”

The bill passed with 30 in favour and 13 against.

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