Israel to reimpose national quarantine for COVID-19
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday a new national quarantine due to a persistent increase in coronavirus cases, in which schools will close and some economic activities will be suspended in an attempt to lower infection rates.
Starting Friday - when the season with more Jewish holidays begins - schools, restaurants, shopping centers and hotels will close their doors, among other businesses, and Israelis will face restrictions on movement and meetings.
Our goal is to curb the increase (in cases) and decrease mortality, Netanyahu said in a nationally broadcast speech. I know that these measures carry a price that is difficult for all of us to pay. This is not the holiday season we are used to.
The tightening of restrictions represents the second lockdown for Israel, after a long lockdown in the spring. That quarantine is attributed to the country having registered a much lower rate of infections, but it wreaked havoc on the economy, causing unemployment to skyrocket.
The lockdown will be in effect for at least three weeks, after which authorities could reduce measures if the numbers decline. Israelis often hold huge family gatherings and crowd synagogues during the Yom Kippur fast - also known as the Day of Atonement - this month, which authorities fear could trigger new outbreaks.
A sticking point in the government's deliberations on lockdown measures is what the prayers will look like during the holiday season. While the government did not specify in its decision what the details about the prayer will be during the quarantine, it is expected that parishioners will have to submit to strict limits. Given this, the Minister of Housing, Yaakov Litzman, who represents ultra-Orthodox Jews, decided to resign hours before.
Israel has registered more than 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 1,100 deaths. Given its population of 9 million people, the country now faces one of the worst outbreaks in the world. It currently registers more than 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day.