Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that the country will be going on another COVID-19 lockdown for three weeks – starting on Friday. The country of nine million people has been suffering 4,000 new coronavirus cases every day for several weeks now, forcing the government to announce a national lockdown.
The situation will however impact the Jewish New Year and daily Synagogue prayers, prompting Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman to resign in protest. The minister, a leader of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party, said the coronavirus restrictions will not make it possible for Jewish faithful to celebrate the most important religious festivals of their year, including Yom Kippur which is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar and falls on September 27.
“This wrongs and scorns hundreds of thousands of citizens,” Litzman said in his resignation letter. “Where were you until now? Why have Jewish holidays become a convenient address for tackling the coronavirus?”
PM Netanyahu said it is unfortunate that Litzman had to leave under the prevailing circumstances but stated that the country must move ahead with the plans.
“We have to move on, to make the decisions necessary for Israel in the coronavirus era, and that is what we will do in this season, ”Netanyahu said. “This is not the kind of holiday we are used to. And we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families. We are preparing in advance, closing down, so we can get out ahead of the virus.”
According to the Ministry of Health, 153,759 people have tested positive to COVID-19 since it started in Israel; 114,635 are recovering while 38,008 people are still being treated for the disease, with 1,108 dead. The country was locked down from March to May and then reopened so that students could resume to school and parents could get back to work.
With the second coronavirus wave and second lockdown, the government said only 10 people will be allowed indoors and a maximum of 20 outdoors. Shops and shopping malls will be shut down but offices and businesses may stay open without attending to customers. Drug stores and supermarkets will remain open but must implement health protocols to safeguard the health of customers.
The Ministry of Finance said the second lockdown will cause the economy to lose about 6.5 billion shekels ($1.88 billion) since the coronavirus had already brought the economy to its knees. However, many Israelis have vowed to disobey the government and not comply with any lockdown orders.