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Cabinet approves near-total national shutdown to stem runaway infection rate

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24.09.2020

Ministers voted early Thursday to dramatically tighten the country’s coronavirus lockdown amid fears that the infection rate is spiraling out of control.

The new restrictions come a week after the current lockdown began and as new daily confirmed infections neared 7,000 on Wednesday for the second straight day.

Beginning Friday at 2 p.m., nearly all businesses will be closed, with the exception of specific companies and factories specifically designated as “vital” by the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Authority. The decision, drafted Wednesday by the coronavirus cabinet and approved by the full cabinet on Thursday morning, exempted supermarkets and pharmacies from the closure, and allowed restaurants to work on a home delivery basis only.

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Yom Kippur prayers that begin Sunday will take place almost entirely outdoors, with groups of up to 10 worshipers permitted to pray inside synagogues, the decision said. The shutdown will also cover the entirety of the Sukkot holiday.

The holiday season is part of the reason the government was imposing the lockdown now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday. Since most Israelis in any case don’t work during the holidays, the economic damage of the shutdown would be reduced as fewer workdays will be lost. Ultra-Orthodox Jews during morning prayer in a synagogue during a nationwide three-week lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Bnei Brak, Sept 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

“We’re headed to a shutdown in any case because of the morbidity rate,” Netanyahu said in a video released Wednesday evening. “So it’s better to do it now, during the holidays, at a low economic cost, and not after the holidays when the economic cost will be higher.”

Nearly all public transportation will be closed, as will the last educational institutions still open — mainly special education programs and private preschools.

Israelis won’t be allowed to travel more than a kilometer (0.6........

© The Times of Israel


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