Health Officials Say Purim Gatherings Jeopardize Reopening

Israeli police in Meah Shearim, to prevent mass gatherings. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Health officials warned on Sunday that in the wake of large Purim gatherings and the reopening of the economy, rising covid infection rates could necessitate the reimposition of restrictions, The Times of Israel said.

A report from the Military Intelligence taskforce found that Israel’s coronavirus transmission rate was once again approaching 1.0, standing at 0.99. The rate had fallen to a low of 0.8 earlier this month.

The basic reproduction number, or R-number, is the number of new cases stemming from each coronavirus infection, or the number of people who caught the virus from each infected person. Any number lower than 1 means the pandemic is slowing down, while a number above 1 means it is expanding. The figures are based on new case numbers from 10 days earlier due to the virus’s incubation period.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein called Sunday on the public to avoid gatherings that exceed the covid limits.

“I seek to address the handful of people who are harming us all: Leave the parties until after the coronavirus. Instead of rejoicing with others, let us think of others,” Edelstein wrote on Twitter.

Coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash said on Sunday that there was “no doubt” that the street parties seen during Purim would cause an increase in morbidity and affect the continued opening of the economy.

“There will be thoughts as to whether the third stage of opening up the economy should be allowed or not. The parties will only add to this apprehension,” Ash told the Kan public broadcaster.

Police have broken up around 200 parties across the country since the holiday started on Thursday, but likely missed hundreds of others, Channel 12 reported.

Dozens of people were arrested or detained. Fines were handed out to both participants and organizers of events.

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