Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a televised news conference on Sunday night that Israel will go into a three-week nationwide lockdown following a sharp escalation in the number of new covid-19 infections in the country in recent weeks.
The lockdown begins on Friday which is also the start of the Jewish High Holiday season. Schools, restaurants, malls and hotels will shut down, among other businesses, and people’s movement will also be limited to 500 metres from one’s home. Data published by the Health Ministry on Monday showed that since the start of the crisis, 156,823 people in Israel have caught the virus, with 115,128 recovering, 40,569 cases active and 1,126 dead.
Netanyahu said in a nationally broadcast statement“I know that these steps come at a difficult price for all of us. This is not the holiday we are used to.”He further added, “Our goal is to stop the increase, to reduce the contagion.” Details about how the new restrictions will affect places of worship are yet to be approved, but since the indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 20, prayers at synagogues would be severely impacted.
Israel had initially been praised worldwide for curbing the spread of the Covid-19 by imposing a stringent lockdown in March but given its population of 9 million the country now has one of the world’s worst outbreaks. It has been criticized for reopening economy in early May, including businesses and even schools. Much of that criticism has been aimed at Netanyahu, who has faced a public outcry over his handling of the crisis and mass protests have taken place in Jerusalem every week for the past two and a half months.