A second lockdown came into force in Israel on Friday amid a resurgence in new coronavirus cases. The new restrictions will last three weeks, according to the government.
The first lockdown was imposed across Israel in late March and eased in May as new cases tapered off, reaching single-digit lows. But in the past week, new cases have reached daily highs of more than 5,000. The new lockdown, which began at the onset of the high-holiday season, coincides with the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, traditionally a time for large family gatherings. Amid new restrictions, residents have been forced to stay mostly at home.
The new rules were approved overnight by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet. Israelis must stay within 1,000 meters of their home, but there are exceptions for commuting to workplaces that will operate on a limited basis.
Social distancing and limits on the number of worshippers were also ordered at synagogues, usually packed for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which this year begins on September 27.
Traveling will be permitted to purchase food or other essentials, to receive medical treatment or obtain social welfare services. During the lockdown, schools and preschools will be closed and will switch to distance learning.
Any business that receives members of the public – except for those providing essential services – will also be closed. Other private sector businesses will remain open, while the public sector will be operating at half capacity. Buses will limit the number of passengers and trains will operate with an empty seat between each passenger.
On Sunday, the cabinet expressed its intent to place some restrictions on protests, including possibly limiting them to 1,000 meters from protesters’ homes, but currently demonstrations are permitted without any restrictions, Haaretz reported.
Since the outbreak began, 1,169 people have died in the country of 9 million. Many Israelis have protested against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Authorities have said they lifted initial measures taken against the spread of the pandemic too soon, but the move to reimpose sweeping restrictions may anger residents struggling amid an economic downturn.
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