After a surge in COVID 19 cases, Israel’s government announced Sunday that it will impose a three-week nationwide “strict” lockdown to stem the infection rates.
Go into effect on Friday, this lockdown order makes Israel the first developed economy to take such a drastic step to curtail a “second wave” of coronavirus infections.
Initially, Israel had been highly praised for imposing a stringent lockdown in March to control the spread of this deadly virus. However, now, it is second only to Bahrain for the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per capita.
“Our goal is to stop the increase (in cases) and lower morbidity,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally broadcast statement.
According to the guidelines of the lockdown, indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people while outdoor gatherings to 20.
Moreover, restaurants are set to be closed to on-site dining. And movements will be limited to 500 meters from one’s home.
The ultra-Orthodox contingent in government opposes this lockdown as it begins hours before the start of the Jewish New Year and the High Holidays that also include the Day of Atonement and Sukkot.
“I know that these steps come at a difficult price for all of us. This is not the holiday we are used to. We certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families,” Netanyahu said.
In protest of the timing of the lockdown, Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Journalism party resigned.
“It is an injustice and disregarded for hundreds of thousands of citizens, ultra-Orthodox, religious and traditional,” who would pray in synagogues and have family meals, Litzman said.
Israel, with a population of nine million, has recorded 155,604 COVID-19 cases, along with 1,119 deaths.