Israel enters second nationwide lockdown on Covid-19

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Schools, restaurants (except delivery) and entertainment venues will all close, along with other businesses, for an initial period of three weeks. The public sector will operate with a limited workforce, while private sector businesses will be able to operate as long as non-employees do not enter the workspace.

People should stay within 500 meters of their home. Emergency services, as well as pharmacies and food stores will remain open. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 20 people, while indoor gatherings will be limited to ten.

The restrictions will be relaxed as soon as Israel sees a sharp drop in infection rates, although no figures have been put on what could constitute such a drop.

The second lockout was announced on Sunday evening. At a cabinet meeting earlier today, Netanyahu said the country’s coronavirus czar had raised “a red flag regarding the ability of the healthcare system to meet the challenges that lie ahead, and [thus] the need to take the necessary measures accordingly. “

Netanyahu announced the lockdown following the surge in coronavirus cases last week, reaching a record 4,217 new cases in 24 hours on Thursday, the third day in a row with more than 4,000 new cases recorded. The number of critically ill patients has also increased steadily, peaking at 513 severe cases and 138 on ventilators on Saturday.

The surge in numbers seemed to leave Israel’s leaders with little choice in trying to regain control of a virus that, at one point, had seemed almost entirely contained. In April, Netanyahu was boasting that Israel had shown the world how to contain the coronavirus and he hoped that would show the world how to restart an economy emerging from lockdown. Today, Israel is probably the first country in the world to impose a second blanket lockdown due to an upsurge in infections.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned Sunday: “There is no escaping a shutdown. We presented a proposal [for closure]. I really won’t be happy when it gets approved. It is a very difficult day for the country. But it is a proposition without any other alternative. ”

Even so, the blanket shutdown, which was approved by the coronavirus cabinet last week, still sparked debate within the government, with some ministers opposed to a full lockdown.

Earlier today, Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who heads one of the ultra-Orthodox parties and served as health minister during the first wave of infections, resigned from his post to protest the impending lockdown . Litzman said he was resigning because the decision to impose a blanket lockdown during major Jewish holidays, which begin next weekend, was made in advance.

Litzman warned that a closure would drastically reduce the number of Jews attending synagogues during the summer holidays, “especially tens of thousands of Jews, from different populations, for some of them the only time in l ‘year to attend prayers in the synagogue’.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu will attempt to shift attention from Israel’s failure to contain the coronavirus to its recent diplomatic achievements. Shortly after announcing the lockdown at a press conference on Sunday night, Netanyahu was due to travel to Washington, DC, for a White House ceremony marking the normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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