Spike in virus infections feared after Jerusalem Purim parties

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Spike in virus infections feared after Jerusalem Purim parties

Health Ministry officials say plans to reopen Israel's economy next weekend could be delayed

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

Parties like this one in Jerusalem's Nachlaot  neighbourhood were condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu (Photo: @SuleimanMas1/Twitter)
Parties like this one in Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighbourhood were condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu (Photo: @SuleimanMas1/Twitter)

Israel’s Health Ministry was preparing to delay plans to ease coronavirus restrictions amid fears of a fresh spike in infections after thousands of people gathered to mark Purim.

There were dozens of street parties in Jerusalem, with hundreds attending an event in the Nachlaot neighbourhood on Sunday.

Few participants were seen wearing masks covering their nose and mouth, and police confiscated loudspeakers from one group of revellers.

Vast crowds also turned out to beaches and public squares in Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile a large number of Strictly Orthodox families, their children in fancy dress, were pictured walking along busy dual carriageways towards the city after a public transport was halted.

A three-night curfew set in place for the Purim holiday ended on Sunday morning, but Jews living in walled cities traditionally celebrate one day later, meaning many were attracted to the celebrations there.

Mass gatherings are still banned and many schools remain closed under Israel’s coronavirus restrictions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the illegal parties and gatherings, saying there were “intolerable”.

Israel’s successful vaccination campaign has allowed it to gradually reopen its economy, but the country’s virus transmission rate has been on the rise since last week.

Plans to reopen restaurants for seating next Sunday could be delayed if the R rate, which measures the number of new cases from each coronavirus infection, exceeds 1.

A health ministry source told Haaretz that the R rate had already been rising before Purim and that the weekend’s celebrations may have caused it to accelerate.

Proposals to delay reopening the economy were set to be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

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