Lockdown imposed in Ramle
Lockdown imposed in RamleYossi Aloni/Flash90

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has cancelled plans to impose full lockdowns on dozens of towns and cities across the country, agreeing to lesser restrictions aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus.

Netanyahu walked back the lockdown plans after meeting with haredi ministers Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) and Coronavirus Czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu at the Prime Minister’s Office Sunday afternoon.

The meeting was scheduled after haredi mayors penned a scathing letter to Netanyahu, warning that the haredi public would “never forget this injustice” of imposing a new lockdown on haredi cities like Bnei Brak, Elad, Emmanuel, Rekhasim, Beitar Illit, and parts of Beit Shemesh.

Earlier on Sunday, the Prime Minister pushed off a planned meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which was to have officially designated a number of towns as no-go zones because of their high coronavirus infection levels.

In a tentative agreement reached with Litzman and Deri, the government will scrap plans to impose a full lockdown, instead imposing nightly curfews in 40 towns and cities from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. every day. Businesses in the 40 communities will be required to close during the 12 hour curfew, with the exception of ‘essential services’.

In addition, schools in the 40 towns and cities will be closed.

Last Thursday, the Coronavirus Cabinet voted to impose a comprehensive lockdown on 31 cities and towns – later raised to 33 – which have high coronavirus infection rates. Most of the towns in question are Israeli Arab communities, with a significant minority of towns predominantly haredi communities.

The lockdown had been slated to last for one week.