JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet decided on Thursday to strengthen Israel’s coronavirus lockdown after he said the surge in infections has pushed the country to the “edge of the abyss”.
Israel resumed its blockade on September 18, which was the second blockade during the pandemic. However, in the past week, the number of new cases per day in a population of 9 million has reached nearly 7,000, severely straining the resources of some hospitals.
Netanyahu said in a public speech to the cabinet: “If we do not take difficult steps immediately, we will reach the edge of the abyss.”
The new restrictions require all businesses and workplaces (designated as essential businesses) to be closed for at least two weeks starting Friday. An official statement said that the list will be released later in the day.
According to the Ministry of Finance, Finance Minister Israel Qaz and Bank of Israel Governor Yamir Aaron opposed the new restrictions. According to estimates, the three-week blockade will cause economic losses of approximately 35 billion shekels (10.06 billion US dollars). .
Israel is already in recession, with an unemployment rate exceeding 11%.
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The school will remain closed, but the synagogue will remain open on Yom Kippur next week, although the number of worshipers will be limited. The religious groups of the coalition government strongly opposed the closure of the synagogue.
According to a survey released Wednesday by the non-partisan Israel Democracy Institute, only 27% of Israelis believe in Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Thousands of protesters gather outside his Jerusalem residence every week, calling on him to resign on suspicion of corruption.
Netanyahu rejected the militants’ allegations, saying that the stricter blockade rules are partly being approved by Parliament and partly to quell these demonstrations.
The current travel limit is 1 kilometer (0.6 miles), in addition to shopping in grocery stores and pharmacies, commuting to get off work and other activities, now it also applies to participating in street protests.
Netanyahu denied allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the trial resumed in January.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, 1,316 people have died in Israel, and approximately 200,000 coronavirus cases have been reported.
The current second wave of infections was implemented in March after the lockdown was released in May.