Israel becomes first country to impose full second lockdown

Israel has become the first country in the world to impose a second national lockdown, after seeing a spike in coronavirus cases.

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 eve of Jewish New Year.

It comes after Israel, which has a population of nine million, saw more than 4,000 new cases in a single day last week.

According to the latest figures from Israeli Health Ministry, since the start of the crisis, more than 153,000 people have caught the virus and 1,108 have died.

Addressing the quarantine around the time of Rosh Hashanah, 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.”

Restrictions Israelis must follow until October 11, when the measures will be reviewed, include:

All schools, hotels and shopping centres 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 can only leave within 500 metres of their homes with the exception of travelling to workplaces.

The upcoming holiday had sparked fears with officials that large gatherings could trigger new outbreaks.

But the new lockdown infuriated Jewish Orthodox factions in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition government, with Israeli 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 back 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 told the New York Times Israel’s reopening of schools in May was “a major failure”.

Speaking about advice he would give other countries, he said: “They definitely should not do what we have done.”

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