Israel enters second nationwide lockdown

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man wears a face mask while walking on a street in Bnei Brak as Israel enforces a lockdown of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town badly affected by coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Bnei Brak, Israel April 3, 2020 REUTERS/ Ammar Awad

Israel will enter a second nationwide lockdown today at the onset of the Jewish high-holiday season, forcing residents to stay mostly at home amid a resurgence in new coronavirus cases. 

The country’s initial lockdown was imposed in late March and was eventually eased in May as new cases tapered off, reaching lows in the single digits. Since the outbreak began, 1,169 people have died in Israel,

In the past week, new cases have reached daily highs of over 5,000, and led Israeli leaders to acknowledge that measures were lifted too soon.

However, the move to reimpose the new restrictions triggered anger from residents who are also experiencing an economic downturn. Israel’s unemployment rate is over 20%.

The new lockdown, which is due to begin at 1100 GMT and will last three weeks, and coincides with the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana. This period, traditionally, is a time for large family gatherings and group prayer. 

With the new restrictions, Israelis must stay within 500 metres (546 yards) of home, with exceptions for activities such as commuting to workplaces that will operate on a limited basis.

Social distancing and limits on the number of worshippers will go into effect at synagogues, usually packed for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement that begins at sunset on Sept 27.