JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will enter a three-week nationwide lockdown beginning on Friday with a proliferation of coronaviruses after a second wave of new cases escalated, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
During the lockdown, which comes during the Jewish high-holiday season, Israelis have to live within a 500-meter radius of their homes, but can travel to workplaces that will be allowed to operate on a limited basis.
Schools and shopping malls will be closed but supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open. The public sector will operate with fewer employees, but non-government offices and businesses will not have to close, unless they accept customers.
Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and no more than 20 people are out.
“I know those measures will outweigh all of us.” “This is not the kind of holiday that we use. And we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families. “
The finance ministry said the lockdown would cost the economy, which slipped into recession due to the virus, an estimated 6.5 billion shekels ($ 1.88 billion).
Netanyahu, who has faced increasing criticism for dealing with the coronovirus crisis, said he directed his finance minister to come up with a new economic package to help businesses suffering from lockdowns.
Israel announced an even stricter lockdown when the virus arrived in April, after which daily cases fell to the low double digits among a population of nine million.
But as the economy reopened, the daily transition boomed, with 4,000 passing last week. 2,715 new cases were reported on Saturday. 1,108 people have died since the outbreak began.
Netanyahu said the country’s health system “raised a red flag” a few days ago, prompting the government to take action.
Hezi Levy, the director general of the Ministry of Health, said in a radio interview earlier Sunday that “dozens of areas are being struck by morbidity.”
“We will have to impose severe sanctions, but they will be able to tolerate this wave and not bring us to the brink of abyss,” Levy said.
Reporting by Arian Rabinovich and Jeffrey Heller, Editing by William McLain