Israel tightens anti-coronavirus lockdown (Ld)

Tel Aviv, Sep 24 : The Israeli government on Thursday announced its decision to tighten the ongoing three-week anti-coronavirus lockdown as the number of new coronavirus cases in the country continued to increase in recent days.

The new restrictions, decided after an overnight meeting, will begin on Friday and last at least until the evening of Simhat Torah, a major Jewish holiday, on October 10, reports Xinhua news agency.

Under the new lockdown, all markets and businesses will be shut except for factories and services defined as "essentials".

Residents will be required to stay within a 1,000-metre radius of their homes, except for special cases such as receiving medical care or an emergency.

Synagogues will be closed, except for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, which begins on Sunday evening.

Synagogues on this day will operate in "a special outline," said a government statement, without providing details.

Throughout the lockdown, rallies and prayers will be permitted only in small groups of not more than 20 people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement ahead of the government meeting that the surge in new infection cases is pushing the country "to the edge of the abyss".

"To save the lives of the citizens of Israel we are now required to impose a full lockdown of two weeks," he said.

After the current lockdown, an additional two-week lockdown might be imposed but with fewer restrictions, Netanyahu added.

On September 18, the government imposed a three-week nationwide lockdown that allowed people to go out for sports activities, political rallies, and prayers and left businesses partially opened.

The revised restrictions are expected to halt weekly protests outside the Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem, where thousands of Israelis demand Netanyahu to resign over alleged corruption and his failure to prevent the resurgence of the coronavirus and economic crisis.

Netanyahu's criminal trial will resume in January 2021.

He has denied the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases and described the allegations as part of a "witch hunt".

According to figures released by the health ministry on Wednesday, 6,667 new cases were reported, the highest single-day spike since the outbreak hit the country in February, taking the total tally to 200,041 infections.

The death toll stood at 1,316.



Source: IANS