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Hours before full lockdown set to begin, Knesset yet to give final okay

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With less than seven hours to go until sweeping new limitations meant to curb a runaway coronavirus outbreak were set to go into effect, Knesset lawmakers had yet to agree on the final rules following an all-night discussion on implementing controversial restrictions early Friday morning.

Ministers on Thursday decided to drastically tighten the national lockdown already in place, removing exemptions, shutting down nearly all non-essential businesses and clamping down on protests and prayer gatherings.

The measure apparently include limits that go beyond what the cabinet is authorized to impose by legislation passed earlier this year, and thus must be accompanied by Knesset approval of an amendment to the existing law governing coronavirus restrictions.

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Lawmakers rushed the measure through its first reading late Thursday and sent the measure to committee, where it was still languishing as of 5:30 a.m. as members haggled over various clauses. The new lockdown is set to go into effect at 2 p.m.

Under the new rules, nearly all businesses will be closed, with the exception of specific companies and factories designated as “essential” by the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Authority. The decision exempts supermarkets and pharmacies from the closure, and allowed restaurants to work on a home-delivery basis only.

The guidelines also place controversial limits on protests, which are only allowed in socially distanced capsules of 20 people each. In addition, traveling more than a kilometer to........

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