Israelis ordered to stay at home to halt coronavirus spread - Netanyahu

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a speech at his Jerusalem office, regarding the new measures that will be taken to fight the coronavirus, March 14, 2020. Gali Tibbon/Pool via REUTERS

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday tightened a national stay-at home policy, announcing guidelines aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus would now be enforced by police under emergency orders.

“Under these orders, you, Israel’s citizens, are required to stay at home. It is no longer a request, it is not a recommendation, it is an obligatory directive that will be enforced by enforcement authorities,” Netanyahu said in a televised address.

The measures stopped short of a total national lockdown: Netanyahu said Israelis would still be allowed to shop for food and medicine, and some workers would be exempted from the restrictions.

Netanyahu had threatened on Wednesday to turn shelter in place guidelines into official orders, enabling police to fine or arrest those who ignore them, unless the public stepped up compliance.

Israel’s Health Ministry has reported 573 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. Forty-seven cases have been reported among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Rami Ayyub