Explained: New Coronavirus Guidelines Edge Israel Closer to Total Lockdown

Public ordered to stay home except for vital reasons such as obtaining food or medical supplies, leisure activities heavily curtailed and limited to a radius of 100 meters from home

A woman pushing a stroller in Tel Aviv, March 17, 2020.
Moti Milrod

The Israeli government drastically clamped down on regulations limiting activity and personal movement Wednesday, in an effort to force more citizens to stay home in the ongoing battle to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

Israelis have already been under partial lockdown for more than a week, with new confirmed coronavirus cases rising by hundreds every day. The intensified new rules, determined after marathon government meetings Tuesday night, were set to officially go into effect Wednesday afternoon at 5 P.M. They will be enforced for a week, when they will be reassessed.

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The regulations increase limitations on movement, expressly forbidding Israelis from leaving their homes except for a short list of reasons, closing all but necessary stores, and reducing public transportation.

Disobeying the regulations will be considered a criminal violation and lawbreakers will be subject to steep fines. 

Citizens will be allowed to travel to their place of employment, if it is one of the businesses permitted to remain open under national emergency regulations.

The only retail establishments that can remain open are grocery stores, pharmacies, stores that sell pet food, and optometrists. These stores must do their best to maintain a distance between all customers in the store and limit the number of shoppers: for every working cash register, four people are permitted. 

Restaurants have been ordered to limit their sales to deliveries only. Picking up food outside of eateries, permitted until now, will no longer be allowed. Home deliveries are permitted for a wide range of products: food, newspapers, home services and appliances, and medical equipment. All deliveries must be placed outside residences. 

Sanctioned reasons to leave the house are for the purchase of food, pharmaceuticals or other “essential needs.” These needs are defined as: medical or veterinary services, welfare and social services, blood donations, political demonstrations, appearances in court and appearances in the Knesset.

Parents are permitted to travel in order to transfer a child whose other parent lives in a separate household. 

While people were previously permitted to go out for exercise accompanied by another person, there are now new restrictions. Under the new rules, all such trips out of the home must be for a “short period of time” and travel is limited to 100 meters (330 feet) from one’s place of residence. 

Leaving the house for religious worship is only permitted if it takes place in an “open space” – effectively shuttering synagogues, churches and mosques. Life cycle events are still permitted under very limited conditions: Weddings, funerals and brit milahs (circumcision ceremonies) may be held, but only outdoors and with up to 10 participants, standing at least 2 meters apart from one another. Women are still allowed to visit a mikveh (ritual bath), but only if the appointment is scheduled. 

People are allowed to go outside in order to assist another person with medical problems or other difficulties for which they require urgent support. They may also transport children of hospital workers and other critical manpower to child care settings. 

When people are out in public for any reason, they are required to maintain a 2-meter distance from other people who do not reside with them. They will not be allowed to travel with more than two people in a car, except when deemed critical in an emergency situation. 

At workplaces, people will be required to take their temperature before entering, and will not be permitted to enter with a fever – defined as 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. Workers must stay 2 meters apart, except in designated locations like hospitals, where closer proximity is permissible. 

Public transportation will be reduced by 75 percent. Travel in taxis is limited to one passenger per ride, except in cases where accompaniment is needed for medical reasons. Passengers are required to sit in the back seat, with the windows of the vehicle open.