(September 14, 2020 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that a countrywide lockdown would begin on Friday and last for at least three weeks.
At a press conference on Sunday evening just before heading to Washington, D.C., to formally establish diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Netanyahu said that the restrictions would include a ban on traveling more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) from one’s residence. Schools would be closed, but at least some public-sector businesses would remain open, he said, subject to unspecified restrictions. All essential services and stores, such as grocery shops and pharmacies, will remain open as usual.
Ben-Gurion International Airport will remain open, but it is not clear whether there will be any public transportation available to Israelis leaving the country.
As for synagogue-attendance guidelines during the lockdown, a key bone of contention that led Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party, to resign from the government on Sunday, prayers in “capsules” of up to 20 people outdoors and 10 people indoors will be permitted. The number of groups allowed inside a building (i.e., a synagogue or other structure used as one) will be determined by the number of entrances to that building, provided that there is no more than one person per four square meters (13 square feet).
Netanyahu said he was aware of the “high price” that the public would be paying and vowed that those hurt financially by the coming lockdown would be compensated.
Lauding the peace treaties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to be signed on Tuesday, Netanyahu stated that the cooperation with the two Arab countries would be a boon to the economies of all three, each of which had been dealt a blow by the pandemic.
According to Health Ministry data, as of Monday afternoon, there were 156,823 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel, among those 40,561 active; 529 patients were in serious condition and 214 in moderate condition; 135 on ventilators; and a national death toll of 1,126.
While the lockdown is currently scheduled to last only until Oct. 11, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office a transition to localized lockdowns in line with Coronavirus Project Coordinator Ronniz Gamzu’s “traffic light” model will depend on the morbidity situation, as assessed by country’s coronavirus cabinet.
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