Israel is to re-impose a second national lockdown, after a spike in coronavirus cases.
The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told the nation during a televised news conference on Sunday evening that schools, shops, hotels and shopping centres will have enforced restrictions again from Friday, the day of Jewish new year.
Israel, which has a population of 9 million, recorded more than 4,000 new cases in a single day last week.
According to the latest figures from the Israeli health ministry, more than 153,000 people have caught the virus and 1,108 have died since the start of the crisis.
Mr Netanyahu said: “Our goal is to stop the increase [in cases] and lower morbidity.
“I know that these steps come at a difficult price for all of us. This is not the holiday we are used to. And we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families.”
The restrictions that Israelis must follow until 11 October, when the measures will be reviewed, include:
- All schools, hotels and shopping centres are to close;
- Supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants can only open for delivery;
- Non-governmental offices and businesses can stay open but must not accept customers;
- Up to 10 people can meet indoors, while groups of up to 20 are allowed outdoors;
- People will not be allowed more than 500 metres from their homes, with the exception of travelling to workplaces.
Officials had feared that large gatherings during the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashanah could trigger new outbreaks.
But the new lockdown has infuriated Jewish Orthodox factions in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition government, with the housing minister, Yaakov Litzman, resigning from his post on Sunday.
In his resignation letter, he said: “This wrongs and scorns hundreds of thousands of citizens.
“Where were you until now? Why have the Jewish holidays become a convenient address for tackling the coronavirus?”
Israel was initially quick to curb the spread of the virus and sealed the country’s borders early on in the year during its first outbreak.
But in an effort to kickstart the economy, schools were invited to reopen in May, which led to a surge in cases.
Eli Waxman, chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council on the pandemic, later that the reopening of schools in May was “a major failure”.
Speaking about advice he would give to other countries, he said: “They definitely should not do what we have done.”
This content was originally published here.