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Israel is the first nation to be banned for the second time


Israel will reintroduce a strict nationwide lockdown this week amid an increase in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this in a televised address last night.

From Friday, the eve of the Jewish New Year, schools, restaurants, shopping malls and hotels, among other things, will be closed and movement restrictions will be imposed.

Members of the public are instructed to be within 500 meters of their homes.

"Our goal is to stop the increase (in cases) and the decrease in morbidity," said Netanyahu.

“I know these steps come at a difficult price for all of us. "This is not the holiday we are used to."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel last night that the country will be closed again from Friday

The lockdown begins on Friday at 11 a.m. GMT, a few hours before the start of the Jewish New Year and High Holidays, which include the Day of Atonement and Sukkot.

The announcement comes despite the backlash by part of the ultra-Orthodox government contingent over enforcing a lockdown during the holidays.

According to the blocking guidelines, which have yet to be finalized, indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 20 people, which means that prayers in synagogues would be severely affected.

The tightening of measures marks the second time Israel has been locked down after a lengthy shutdown in the spring.

This makes them the first country in the world to reintroduce nationwide lockdown restrictions.

The first lockdown was credited with lowering the much lower infection rates, but devastating the country's economy and skyrocketing unemployment.

Mr Netanyahu said restrictions could be tightened if infection rates don't go down in the first three weeks

Netanyahu said the restrictions could be tightened if infection rates don't go down in the first three weeks

Protesters took to the streets in Tel Aviv yesterday to demonstrate against Mr Netanyahu's government, including for dealing with coronaviruses

Protesters took to the streets in Tel Aviv yesterday to demonstrate against Mr Netanyahu's government, including for dealing with coronaviruses

The new lock will last for at least three weeks. From this point onwards, officials are expected to relax measures if the number drops.

Israelis typically hold large family gatherings and pack synagogues during the important Yom Kippur fast, settings officials fear could spark new outbreaks.

A sticking point in government deliberations on the lockdown was what prayers will look like over the holidays.

The strict limits of believers led Israeli Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who represents ultra-Orthodox Jews, to resign from the government.

"It is an injustice and disregard for hundreds of thousands of citizens, ultra-Orthodox, religious and traditional," who would try to pray and have family dinners in synagogues, Litzman said.

Israel had more than 150,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 1,100 deaths.

According to a balance sheet by the AFP news agency, Israel is the second largest country after Bahrain with the world's highest coronavirus infection rate.

With a population of nine million, the country currently registers more than 4,000 cases of the virus daily.

Israel has been commended for its initial treatment of the coronavirus outbreak. It moved quickly to seal the country's borders and appeared to bring infections under control.

Since then, it has been criticized that companies and schools opened too quickly and that the virus was able to spread unhindered.

Protesters blocked an entrance to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv as part of their demonstration

Protesters blocked an entrance to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv as part of their demonstration

Mr Netanyahu was scheduled to fly out of Ben Gurion yesterday and sign an agreement with the UAE in Washington

Mr Netanyahu was scheduled to fly from Ben Gurion yesterday and sign an agreement with the UAE in Washington

Much of this criticism has been directed against Mr. Netanyahu, who has been exposed to public outcry over his management of the crisis and who has seen thousands of demonstrators at his residence in Jerusalem every week.

While Mr Netanyahu was praised for his determined response after the spring outbreak, he appeared distracted by political and personal affairs, including his trial on corruption charges, as infections increased over the summer.

He was also berated for appearing to have given in to pressure from various interest groups, including his ultra-Orthodox government partners, who had apparently convinced him to abandon a precise, city-based lockdown plan that would have primarily affected ultra-Orthodox people and Arab communities.

At Sunday's press conference announcing the lockdown, Netanyahu defended his response, saying Israel's economy emerged from the initial lockdown in a better state than many other developed nations.

He said while cases are high, the country's coronavirus mortality numbers are lower than other countries with similar outbreaks.

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