COVID-19: Israel reimposes new nationwide lockdown as virus cases rise

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced that a new nationwide lockdown would be imposed amid a stubborn surge in coronavirus cases, with schools and parts of the economy set to shut down in an attempt to reduce infection rate.From Friday, the start of the peak Jewish holiday season, schools, restaurants, malls and hotels will close, among other businesses, and Israelis will face restrictions on movement and assembly.

“Our goal is to stop the increase (in cases) and decrease in morbidity,” Netanyahu said in a statement released nationally. “I know these steps come at a tough price for all of us. These are not the holidays we are used to. ”

The tightening of measures marks the second time Israel has been plunged into a lockdown, after a long hiatus in the spring. The lockdown is credited with bringing the number of infections down much lower, but it has wreaked havoc on the country’s economy, causing unemployment to skyrocket.

The lockdown will remain in place for at least three weeks, by which time officials can relax measures if numbers are down. Israelis typically hold large family reunions and synagogues during the important Yom Kippur fast later this month, settings that officials say could trigger further epidemics.

A sticking point in the government’s lockdown deliberations was what prayers would look like during the holidays. While details of prayer during the lockdown were not nailed down in the government’s decision, what was meant to be strict limits on worshipers. This prompted Israeli Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who represents ultra-Orthodox Jews, to step down from the government earlier on Sunday.

Israel has had more than 150,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,100 deaths. Considering its population of 9 million, the country is now experiencing one of the worst epidemics in the world. He now sees more than 4,000 cases of the virus daily.

Israel has received praise for its initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, moving quickly to seal the country’s borders and appearing to be in control of infections. He has since been criticized for opening businesses and schools too quickly and allowing the virus to spread unchecked.

Much of that criticism has been aimed at Netanyahu, who has faced a public outcry over his handling of the crisis and has seen thousands of protesters descend on his Jerusalem residence every week. Although praised for his decisive response in the wake of the spring outbreak, Netanyahu appeared distracted by politics and personal issues, including his trial over corruption allegations, as infections soared over the summer.

Netanyahu has also been criticized for appearing to bow to pressure from various interest groups, including more recently his ultra-Orthodox government partners, who appeared to have convinced him to relax a localized and city-based lockdown plan. which would have mainly affected the ultra-Orthodox. and Arab communities.

At Sunday’s press conference announcing the lockdown, Netanyahu defended his response, saying Israel’s economy came out of the first lockdown in better shape than many other developed countries and that, although cases are high, The country’s coronavirus death rates were lower than in other countries with similar outbreaks.

The country’s power-sharing government, made up of two rival parties that have joined forces with a stated goal of tackling the virus, has also been berated for the new outbreak. The government has been accused of mismanagement, failing to properly address the health and economic crises caused by the virus and leading the country to its second lockdown.

Some government ministers have pointed to what they called an unruly public, whom they accused of violating restrictions on public gatherings and the wearing of masks.

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