No time for partying - Israel imposes curfew for Purim holiday

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A Palestinian woman walks past a coronavirus-themed mural amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Gaza City

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Thursday imposed a curfew for the Jewish holiday of Purim, when crowds of revelers traditionally don costumes and party late into the night, as a precaution after last year's festivities became a coronavirus super-spreader event.

This weekend, from 8:30 p.m. until 5 a.m., instead of dancing and drinking at house parties and outdoor jamborees, Israelis are required to stay at home. They are free to travel during the day.

"Last Purim there was a dangerous outbreak with mass infections and you remember we had to shut down the country. This must not repeat itself," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We can be happy, we can put on costumes, but we have to follow the rules."

Purim commemorates the survival of the Jewish people who had been marked for death in ancient Persia. One custom is to drink until you cannot distinguish between the story's hero and its villain.

This year, night-time parties are forbidden and getting caught in someone else's house carries a hefty fine. Businesses considered essential will be allowed to stay open and the curfew does not apply in majority-Arab cities.

Israel has been gradually reopening its economy after a third lockdown and its rapid COVID-19 vaccination campaign is showing the first signs of turning the tide on the pandemic.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Mike Collett-White)