Israel Returns to Lockdown as COVID-19 Cases Mount

Israel imposes second coronavirus lockdown during high holidays

The new lockdown, due to last three weeks, coincides with the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, traditionally a time for large family gatherings. It is now reporting around 5000 new cases a day, one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world.

It comes as new infections have risen 5,000 on some days, bringing the country to over 175,000 cases including 1,160 deaths. Amid new restrictions, residents have been forced to stay mostly at home.

Protesters chant slogans and hold banners against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the coronavirus countrywide lockdown in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Social distancing and limits on the number of worshippers will go into effect at synagogues, usually packed for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement that begins at sunset on Sept 27.

People will not be permitted to travel more than 500 metres away from their homes, except for shopping, emergency services or medical treatment. During the lockdown, schools and preschools will be closed and will switch to distance learning. 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.

However, Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport remained open under restrictions, when only flights that have already been approved will be operated.

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On Sunday, the cabinet expressed its intent to place some restrictions on protests, including possibly limiting them to 1,000 meters from protesters' homes, but now demonstrations are permitted without any restrictions, Haaretz reported.

Israeli authorities announced a new lockdown amid the increase in coronavirus cases.

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But Israeli leaders now acknowledge they lifted restrictions too soon in the hope of avoiding further economic damage by reopening the private sector.

Israel was one of the first countries to impose extreme lockdowns during the spring, ordering the closure of borders and most businesses, as well as confining people to their residences.

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