COVID-19: Israel tightens second lockdown to avoid 'abyss'

Israel has one of the world’s highest rates of infection relative to population size. With a population of only 9 million, Israel’s new COVID-19 cases each day are exceeding 8,000.

The country's second lockdown began on Friday, 18 September, as the country was set to celebrate Rosh Hashana, and will last at least three weeks.

What are the new restrictions?

Israel, which has a population of about nine million, has reported more than 3,000 new cases a day in recent weeks.

The measures he announced will be the most extensive imposed in Israel since the first lockdown, which ran from late March until early May, and include:

  • No more than 10 people can meet indoors while groups of 20 are allowed outdoors
  • Schools and shopping centres will close, and Israelis must stay within 500 metres of their homes with the exception of travelling to workplaces
  • Non-governmental offices and businesses can stay open but must not accept customers
  • However supermarkets and pharmacies can remain open to the public.

A mere 6 days after last week’s lockdown Israel is now set to tighten its second nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, with the prime minister warning that the country is at "the edge of the abyss".

The move came after the daily number of new Covid-19 cases exceeded 8,000. That is one of the world's highest rates of infection relative to population size.

Since the start of the pandemic, 1,335 people with the Covid-19 have died in Israel and more than 206,000 cases have been diagnosed. Israel's government was praised in the spring for taking early action that contained the spread of Covid-19 and resulted in a very low death rate compared to other countries. But it has come in for widespread criticism for losing control since the first lockdown was eased in May.

"In the past two days, we heard from the experts that if we don't take immediate and difficult steps, we will reach the edge of the abyss. In order to save the lives of Israeli citizens, we are required to impose of full lockdown for two weeks."

The new measures are expected to take effect at 14:00 (11:00 GMT) on Friday and last until after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot ends on 11 October.

Israeli media reported that they would include the closure of all businesses not considered "essential".

Synagogues would be closed except for Yom Kippur, which starts on Sunday. At other times, only outdoor prayer services would be allowed with a maximum of 20 people attending. Street protests also look set to be limited to 20 people at a time, which would potentially end the large demonstrations held for weeks against Mr Netanyahu.

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