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Coronavirus: Israel closes off Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox areas to stem virus spread

Restrictions enforced by police roadblocks are imposed on same day government order for wearing masks in public takes effect
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish family walks behind tape extended by police at entrance of Mea Shearim neighbourhood in Jerusalem on Sunday (AFP)

Israel locked down mainly ultra-Orthodox Jewish areas of Jerusalem on Sunday to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus from the densely populated neighbourhoods where the infection rate is high.

The entry and exit restrictions, enforced by police roadblocks, were imposed on the same day that a government order for the wearing of masks in public went into effect throughout the country, Reuters said.

Residents of the restricted neighbourhoods in Jerusalem can still shop close to home for essentials. Synagogues have been closed to try to stem infections, as they have been across the country.

The neighbourhoods are home to large families living in close quarters. Compliance with social-distancing guidelines has been spotty.

In these neighbourhoods - except for certain work, health and familial exceptions - there will be no entrance and no exit until Wednesday morning. A thousand policemen will stand guard at the gates of these neighbourhoods to ensure the regulations are followed, the Jerusalem Post reported.

According to Health Ministry statistics, areas with large concentrations of ultra-Orthodox people are the worst hit by the pandemic, the Post added.

Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox town of 200,000 near Tel Aviv, was declared a restricted zone on 2 April and police have limited access to the area.

Israel has reported 10,878 confirmed coronavirus cases and 103 deaths.