Israel Ushers in Jewish New Year with Nationwide Lockdown

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, wearing a protective face masks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and "Talit" prayer shawl, keep a two-metre distance as they pray along a street outside a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2020. - Israel, next week, is …

The first country in the world to do so, Israel imposed a second national lockdown hours before the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

The three-week closure will extend through Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

Thousands of police officers and soldiers were deployed throughout the country to enforce the shutdown, handing out fines of up NIS 5,000 ($1,450) to rule-breakers.

The new rules, which are looser than the first lockdown in April, allow people to leave their homes for up to 1 kilometer (0.6 miles).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government had no choice but lockdown, as cases surged to more than 5,500 in a 24-hour period — making Israel hover at the top of the infection rate per capita of countries around the world. On Thursday, 9.4 percent of the 55,697 tested came out positive for the virus.

“The health system has raised the red flag,” Netanyahu said. “We did everything we could to strike a balance between the health needs and needs of the economy.”

He added that the three-week closure may be extended further if there isn’t a sufficient decrease in numbers.

Health ministry officials are hoping to get infections down to under 1000 in a 24-hour period.

“Wear masks and avoid gatherings,” Netanyahu told the public in his televised address.

“The more this is done, the less there is a need for tighter measures. Those two measures are more important than any that we impose.”

As of Friday, 176,933 Israelis have been infected with the coronavirus, of which 46,370 were active cases with 577 in serious condition. 1,169, have died.



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