Israel imposes a second national lockdown as coronavirus infections soar

Israeli media estimated that about 10,000 people attended the protests while organisers placed the number at 25,000

Housing and Construction Minister Ya'acov Litzman, from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, announced his resignation in protest over the lockdown, arguing it had been deliberately delayed until the start of the Jewish holiday when it could have been imposed a month ago.

Israel will enter its second nationwide lockdown this week to quell a recent surge of coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday.

It is now seeing more than 4,000 daily cases of the virus.

"Our goal is to stop the increase (in cases) and lower morbidity", Netanyahu said in a nationally broadcast statement.

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

The anti-coronavirus measures will restrict gatherings to no more than 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors.

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During the 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.

"I know these steps have a high price for all of us and we can not celebrate (the holidays) with the whole family", The Israeli Prime Minister said and added that by adhering to norms of social distancing, "we would beat the virus".

"It is an injustice and disregard for hundreds of thousands of citizens, ultra-Orthodox, religious and traditional", who would seek to pray in synagogues and have family meals, Litzman said. Israel stated that if the reinstatement of lockdown measures is successful, the restrictions will eventually only apply to COVID-19 hotspots throughout the country.

Israel was initially quick to curb the spread of the virus and sealed the country's borders early on in the year during its first outbreak.

Also on Sunday evening, dozens of Israelis rallied at the entrance of Israel's worldwide Ben Gurion Airport to protest against Netanyahu before his scheduled departure to Washington, where he will sign the recently-achieved normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates. Schools and shopping malls will be closed, while supermarkets will remain open. On Saturday, 2,715 new cases were reported.

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