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Israeli Cabinet Tightens Virus Lockdown as Infections Surge

Israeli Cabinet Tightens Virus Lockdown as Infections Surge

Thursday, 24 September, 2020 - 07:00
A nurse provides medical care for a patient at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ward amid a surge in new cases that has forced Israel into a second nationwide lockdown, at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov), Tel Aviv, Israel September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet decided on Thursday to tighten coronavirus lockdown after the latter voiced alarm that a surge in infections was pushing the nation to “the edge of the abyss”.


Israel went back into lockdown, its second during the pandemic, on Sept. 18. But over the past week, the number of daily new cases has reached nearly 7,000 among a population of 9 million, severely straining the resources of some hospitals.


“We reached a decision to pull the handbrake,” Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said regarding the cabinet decision.


Several Israeli news sites said the revised edicts, due to take effect on Friday pending parliamentary ratification, will allow fewer businesses to operate, and only in “essential” sectors such as finance, energy, health, technology, agriculture and food sales and production.


The current 1,000-meter limit on travel from home, except for activities such as grocery and medicine shopping and commuting to work, will now also apply to attendance at street protests, the news reports said.


The revised edict was likely to put a damper on demonstrations outside Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence, where protesters, many of them from outside the city, have been calling for his resignation over alleged corruption, Reuters reported.


He has denied charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a trial that resumes in January, and rejected allegations from protest activists that a tougher lockdown was essentially aimed at quashing the demonstrations against him.


“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,” Netanyahu said in public remarks to the cabinet, which met for about eight hours.


Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported.


The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March.


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