Israel reinstates full lockdown as cases soar

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign ad featuring Bernie Sanders

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign ad featuring Bernie Sanders

Israel went back into a full lockdown on Friday to try to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has steadily worsened for months as its government has been plagued by indecision and infighting.

Israel had earlier imposed a lockdown in March and began easing restrictions in May.

Israel's first nationwide pandemic lockdown ended in May.

They had also permitted mass gatherings, which contributed in pushing new cases to daily highs of over 5,000.

But the three-week lockdown has been criticised because it coincides with the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, when religious and secular Israelis alike gather in homes and synagogues. Amid new restrictions, residents have been forced to stay mostly at home.

"I know those measures will exact a heavy price on us all", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address.

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During the lockdown, which comes during the Jewish high holiday season, Israelis will have to stay within 500 meters of their houses, but can travel to workplaces that will be allowed to operate on a limited basis.

Health officials blame patchy compliance with mandatory mask-wearing, poor social distancing and infections in close-quarter Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities and in schools for fueling a second wave of cases. People must remain within 1 kilometre of home, but there are several exceptions, including shopping for food or medicine, going to work in a business that's closed to the public, attending protests and even seeking essential pet care.

On Sunday, the cabinet expressed its intent to place some restrictions on protests, including possibly limiting them to 1,000 meters from protesters' homes, but now demonstrations are permitted without any restrictions, Haaretz reported.

Israel has over 179,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19.

Israeli leaders have acknowledged they lifted measures too soon, but the move to reimpose sweeping restrictions has angered residents struggling amid an economic downturn.

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