Following a fiery eight-hour session on Wednesday evening, Israel’s coronavirus Cabinet finally agreed upon the terms of the nationwide lockdown scheduled to go into effect on Friday at 2 p.m. and last for at least two weeks, until the end of the Jewish High Holidays.
This new set of regulations geared at halting and reducing the country’s sharply rising COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates comes on the heels of a more lenient lockdown that had been imposed last Friday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, at the same hour. The first countrywide lockdown was in April.
According to a joint statement released on Thursday morning by the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry, the complete list of regulations and forced closures, pending Cabinet approval, will be:
- Closure of all workplaces, with the exception of essential workplaces that will operate in according to the regulations.
- Closure of all open-air markets.
- Stores that sell food and pharmaceuticals, and those that provide essential services, will be allowed to continue operating.
- People are restricted from going more than 1,000 meters (0.6 miles) from their homes, except for approved reasons.
- Prayers and demonstrations will be allowed in open areas only for groups of up to 20 people, and must be held within 1,000 meters (0.6 miles) from one’s home. (The limits on demonstrations are subject to Knesset legislation).
- Synagogues will be closed during the lockdown, except for Yom Kippur, during which prayers will be subject to yet-to-be-released directives.
- Public transportation will operate in a reduced format.
- Outgoing air travel will be banned, pending Cabinet approval.
- All sports, other than official international games, will be prohibited.
In his opening remarks to ministers at Wednesday night’s Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “[W]e are called upon to make decisions, and leadership means making tough decisions, the necessary decisions, the decisions that save lives. We do not have the privilege of knowing that we could have prevented additional mortality and did not do so. This is our responsibility. As elected representatives, we must act now, and I tell you, act together, for the citizens of Israel.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the Health Ministry had recorded 206,332 total confirmed cases, 56,901 of which are currently active. Of those, 667 patients were listed as being in serious condition, 164 on ventilators. To date, 1,335 people have died of the disease.
With less than 24 hours to go before the lockdown goes into effect, however, a number of issues remain unclear, among them which types of work are defined as “essential,” what the directives will be for synagogues on Yom Kippur and whether those who have already purchased airline tickets will be allowed to fly or not.
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