Israel announces 3-week nationwide lockdown as COVID cases spike

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

New Delhi (NVI): Israel has announced a three-week nationwide lockdown starting on Friday to contain the spread of the coronavirus after a second-wave of new cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

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

During the country’s second lockdown, which comes during the Jewish high-holiday season, Israelis will have to stay within 500 metres of their houses, 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 staff, but non-governmental offices and businesses will not have to close, as long as they do not accept customers, according to media reports.

Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and no more than 20 people outdoors.

“I know those measures will exact a heavy price on us all,” Netanyahu said in a televised address. “This is not the kind of holiday we are used to. And we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families.”

The Finance Ministry said the lockdown will cost the economy, which slipped into a recession in the wake of the virus, an estimated 6.5 billion shekels (US$1.88 billion).

So far, the country has seen 1,108 deaths from Covid-19 and more than 1,53,000 confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins University tally.