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Israeli police seal Bnei Brak after it's declared coronavirus 'restricted zone'

By
Don Jacobson
A pedestrian wears a protective mask to guard against the coronavirus outbreak in the Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem, on Thursday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
A pedestrian wears a protective mask to guard against the coronavirus outbreak in the Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem, on Thursday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

April 3 (UPI) -- Israeli police on Friday blocked off the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak after it was placed under strict restrictions as a hotbed of the coronavirus pandemic.

About 1,000 officers wearing masks and surgical gloves arrived to block key intersections and enforce quarantine orders in the densely populated town hours after it was declared a "restricted zone" by the government during a cabinet meeting.

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"Bnei Brak is on lockdown as of this morning and police will prevent any movements in or out of the city," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Interior Minister Arye Dery and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday ordered the evacuation of all persons over the age of 80 from Bnei Brak. Some 4,500 were to be transferred to live in a hotel outside the city during the outbreak.

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Police were authorized to use "appropriate force" if they encounter resistance while enforcing the transfers, authorities said.

The Health Ministry said Bnei Brak reported a spike in cases Thursday. Nationally, Israel has about 7,030 cases and 36 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Officials said up to 38 percent of suburb's 200,000 residents are likely infected. It's on pace to account for 30 percent of Israel's entire COVID-19 caseload.

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Those between the ages of 60 and 80 were placed on strict home quarantine and officials said members of the Israel Defense Forces will help residents and distribute food and medicine.

The Israeli cabinet, which met via teleconference late Thursday, put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in charge of a new committee to determine if more areas should be declared "restriction zones."

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A health worker with the Israeli national emergency service, Magen David Adam, wears protective gear while taking swabs to test for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing center in East Jerusalem on August 26. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
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