Cabinet votes to keep lockdown until at least October 13 as coronavirus numbers continue downward trend.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
The government announced Wednesday it extended Israel’s national coronavirus lockdown by a week, keeping restrictions in place that appear to be slowing the infection rate.
A joint statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and the Health Ministry said the lockdown will stay in place until at least October 13, past the initial target date of the end of the Sukkot holiday this weekend.
Under the restrictions, schools and non-essential businesses are to remain closed and Israelis cannot travel more than one kilometer from their homes except for food and medical care, or if they are employed in essential services. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, and outdoor groups are restricted to 20 persons.
However, in practice the lockdown is being ignored by wide swathes of the Israeli public, and numerous officials have been caught violating the restrictions.
“It is impossible to lock up an entire country for an extended period of time,” an unnamed cabinet minister said in a Channel 12 report.
Left-wing demonstrations calling for the resignation of Netanyahu have been attended by thousands of people, despite rules limiting demonstrations to a maximum of 20 people who live within a kilometer frp, where the demonstration is taking place.
In ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, people have congregated in large gatherings for traditional celebrations during the week-long Sukkot holiday.
In both cases, police initially tried to break up the crowds and scenes turned violent, with scores of demonstrators and religious Jews arrested.
The lockdown was imposed on September 25 and appears to be having some success, with 4,674 new confirmed infections in the past day, down from a record high of 9,013 on September 30. Some 61,000 Israelis are currently sick with coronavirus, down from a peak of 72,000.
One key indicator – the number of people in serious condition in hospitals – is also dropping, down to 855 from a peak of 890. Although some of that drop has been due to deaths, health officials have expressed cautious optimism and are hoping that the downward trend continues.
As of Wednesday morning, Israel’s coronavirus death toll stood at 1,803, an increase of 251 in the past week.