The government voted late Friday afternoon to halt all public transportation and organized group travel to Jerusalem between Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at midnight.The decision comes amid fears that Israel may be facing a new wave of infection even before this one dissipates. The Ministerial Committee for Coronavirus said that the regulation will not apply to approved carpools intended for employees reaching their work places or children who are traveling to school.Anyone who violates the regulation will be fined NIS 5,000. The decision was in-line with Health Ministry recommendations.

A senior Magen Israel staff member told KAN on Friday morning that the Health Ministry was not in favor of putting a curfew on Jerusalem and harming its residents with “restrictive actions, when most of what happens in the city is from crowds coming from outside. We recommend reducing public and organized transportation to Jerusalem.”

On Friday morning, a report by the Coronavirus Knowledge and Information Center showed that the reproduction rate – the R or number of people a sick person infects – had hit 0.97, up from 0.93 the day before. 

The declining trend in morbidity has nearly halted, the report said, likely largely because of the British variant. About 5.6% of all people screened for the virus test positive – a number that the center said is considered high. There remain nearly 750 serious patients, among them 238 who were intubated as of Friday morning, according to the Health Ministry. 

There were 3,782 people diagnosed with coronavirus on Thursday, the Health Ministry said. The death toll stood at 5,694.

On Thursday, two young men ages 24 and 26 died of the virus. 

The data reflects a report by Clalit Health Services published the day before that said the British variant increased the chances of developing a serious case of COVID by 70%. Already, international data showed that the variant is anywhere between 35% and 70% more contagious.

But now the Knowledge Center is warning of another variant, too: The New York variant, which it said has spread rapidly in recent weeks in the United States and is known to be linked to COVID reinfection. The Knowledge Center recommended taking immediate action to prevent its entry into Israel, given the extensive ties between Israel and the City that Never Sleeps. 

The center said it expects to see an increase in new cases in the coming days, given the R and the country’s recent economic and education reliefs. 

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein shared the vaccination statistics on Friday morning, reminding Israelis that this Purim is of mixed emotions – joy and concern.

“I would like to address the handful of people who can harm us all,” Edelstein said. “Leave the parties for after the coronavirus. You will give up the tisch this time. The commandment to rejoice on the holiday must not come at the expense of the public. Instead of rejoicing with the other, let’s think of the other.”There are more than 4.6 million Israelis who have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and another 3.6 million who have also  had their second dose. 

Edelstein’s message came as the Police shared information about some of the illegal incidents they broke up on Thursday night. In Jerusalem, the police dispersed several parties, including a mass gathering of 250 people at a hotel. Three people were detained. 

During an enforcement operation in the Mahane Yehuda market in which police tried to stop minors from consuming alcohol, a glass bottle was thrown at a police officer. The suspect fled the scene. 

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