Israel is set to enter its third nationwide COVID-19 lockdown on Sunday at 5 p.m. According to the framework approved by the government on Wednesday night, the latest closure is set to last two weeks but will be extended by another two weeks if the infection rate does not slow.

As part of the lockdown, Israelis will need to remain within 1,000 meters (around 300 feet) of their homes and will be banned from entering others’ residences. Gatherings will be limited to up to 20 people outdoors and 10 people indoors. Commerce and recreation will be largely shut down, and public transportation will run at 50 percent capacity. Non-public-facing businesses will be able to work at 50 percent capacity.

The education system will remain partially open, except for special education, which will continue to operate as usual. Although the Health Ministry has warned that even a partial opening of the education system will render the lockdown ineffective, classes will continue for preschools, grades one to four and 11 to 12 (who will need to take their high-school matriculation exams this year), from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet approved a framework for prayer services over the Christmas holiday that would see a maximum 10 capsules of up to 10 people each allowed to convene in a building with more than one entrance. In open spaces, up to 100 people will be allowed to convene for the holiday.

According to data by the Israeli Ministry of Health, approximately 27 percent of confirmed cases are in the Arab sector, 18 percent are in the haredi sector, and 53 percent are in the general population.

According to the ministry, the number of daily infections could rise to 9,000 within less than a month. As of Wednesday, the country’s morbidity rate stood at 4.3 percent with some 3,800 new cases being reported in the past 24 hours, according to ministry data. The ministry has warned that increased stress on the health-care system coming at the same time as the nationwide vaccination campaign will require an increase in manpower.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting that the lockdown was necessary despite the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines because of the rate at which infections were rising.

“We understand the restrictions are difficult for Israel’s citizens,” he said.

However, he added, “speed here is critical. The disease doubles itself every few days, and the rate of vaccination, no matter how fast, will not double itself. It cannot catch up to the crazy speed of the disease’s outbreak. If we don’t stop it now, we will see an even greater increase in morbidity.”

Last week, the average daily infection rate stood at 2,863, crossing the red line of 2,500 set by the ministry for entering a phase of “tightened restraint.” According to a senior ministry official, once Israel hits 5,000 daily infections, it will take five weeks before the country is able to exit a lockdown.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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