Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that the government will impose a three-week lockdown across Israel from 14:00 (local time) on Friday, September 18, amid a continuing increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country. Under the nationwide lockdown, the second to be imposed since the beginning of the pandemic, those in the country will be prohibited from non-essential journeys more than 500m (1600ft) from their place of residence, although travel to purchase food and essential goods or seek medical attention will be permitted. As during the country's first lockdown which was lifted in May, schools will be closed from Friday and public sector employees ordered to work from home under the emergency measure. Food retailers, pharmacies, and other essential businesses will be allowed to continue operating, as will those which do not have direct contact with members of the public, but restaurants, recreational and leisure facilities, and other non-essential businesses will be required to close. Public gatherings will also be limited to 10 people indoors or 20 in outside areas, although it was not immediately clear whether the restriction includes public protests and demonstrations.
The lockdown covers the Jewish high holidays period, coming into effect hours ahead of Rosh Hashanah on September 18 and covering Yom Kippur on September 27, and has faced opposition from some religious groups. Although Netanyahu stated that special measures to allow prayers on Yom Kippur will be announced in the coming days, several groups and hospitality sector businesses have threatened to defy the new restrictions.
Israel has seen a significant increase in daily COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, with over 3000 new cases typically being reported each day since the beginning of September compared to an average of around 2000 per day in July and August.
Existing COVID-19 restrictions, including 19:00 to 05:00 curfews in areas with confirmed outbreak clusters, will remain in place during the nationwide lockdown. However, the country's airports will remain open during the period, with multiple airlines continuing to operate international flights.
As of Sunday, September 13, there have been 153,759 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel and 1108 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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