Health Official: Israel Mulling Nighttime Purim Curfew

YERUSHALAYIM -
Police set up temporary roadblocks at the Ein Chemed junction, outside of Yerushalayim, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on February 3. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Israel is mulling implementing stricter restrictions on Purim, including a possible nighttime curfew, in an effort to prevent another coronavirus outbreak, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said Monday.

On Sunday, Israel lifted a series of restrictions on trade and culture and while mass gatherings are still banned, health officials fear the public will try to hold large parties on Purim, on Thursday night and Friday.

Kisch told Yediot that the Health Ministry is still in the process of drafting an outline but implementation of the nighttime curfew for the three days of festivities looks to be the preferred option.

“I suggest a nighttime curfew during Purim due to the current reality and a threat of parties [being held],” he said. “Purim cannot be celebrated as usual, and we will have no other choice but to implement a curfew, as these parties could become an enormous source of renewed infections.”

Health officials worry that parties will lead to a renewed and harsher outbreak among young people, given the more infectious U.K. variant and the fact that the majority of them are not yet vaccinated.

“We still have thousands of new infections a day and among young people the percentage of vaccinated is low. We won’t see parties until late at night full of 70-year-olds, so it is the younger people’s parties that should be avoided.”

Kisch said the government is currently also discussing other potential measures that could be implemented, and a final decision will be made in the coming days.

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash also voiced his concerns about Purim and warned that people must avoid mass gatherings because the pandemic is still rampant.

“Small gatherings for tefillah and seudot with close relatives can take place, but mass festivities and parties are strictly forbidden,” he said during a press briefing Sunday.

“These gatherings endanger everybody’s health. The result of such parties will be a renewed closure of the education system and an infection wave that might lead to the shuttering of parts of the economy, to the point of a lockdown.”