Israel Enters Third Nationwide Coronavirus Lockdown

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A man walks through Jerusalem's Mahne Yehuda market as Israel's third coronavirus lockdown takes effect, December 27, 2020.
A man walks through Jerusalem's Mahne Yehuda market as Israel's third coronavirus lockdown takes effect, December 27, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

Israelis entered a nationwide lockdown beginning Sunday at 5 P.M., the third since the onset of the pandemic.

The lockdown will be in effect for at least two weeks, following Friday’s cabinet approval of the regulations associated with it. Among them, Israelis will be limited to a 1,000-meter radius of their homes with certain exceptions, including for vaccinations. People are prohibited from visiting the homes of others, except for their own household. The fine for violating the regulations is 500 shekels ($155).

Children will continue to attend school as usual in all grades in cities that have low infection rates. In cities that are not 'green' (meaning they are defined as having a moderate to high infection rate), children fifth grade and older will study remotely. Outdoor educational activities will be prohibited, as will post-high school advanced classes and youth group activities.

Leisure-time activities will cease and retail businesses will close, except for deliveries of food and other products. Businesses that do not receive customers will be allowed to remain open at 50 percent capacity or up to 10 employees, whichever is greater. Gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 20 people outdoors and 10 people indoors. Individual athletic activities will be allowed with no distance restrictions and only sports centers used for professional training will be allowed to remain open.

The “green tourism islands” of the Dead Sea and Eilat will be closed, as will guest accommodations, zoos, nature reserves and national parks, national and memorial sites, museums, hairdressers, cosmeticians and alternative medicine clinics.

The rules do not prohibit demonstrations, which do not require compliance with the 1-kilometer radius from home restriction. People will also be allowed to exceed the travel restriction for vaccination, medical or other assistance and court appearances.

Minors may also travel between the homes of their parents, and people will be allowed to exceed the distance restriction to travel to work, a funeral, a wedding or a circumcision ceremony – within the permissible numbers of guests.

Some 4,000 police officers will be deployed across the country to enforce the lockdown.

As opposed to the two previous lockdowns, soldiers will not take part in enforcing COVID-19 regulations in the current lockdown.

Police are expected to mainly enforce quarantine orders and prevent mass gatherings.

The decision not to set up checkpoints during the day on intercity roads and at entrances and exits to main cities came after this measure created serious traffic jams in the previous lockdowns.

Instead, traffic police officers will randomly inspect drivers. As of 6:30 P.M., 300 officers will be deployed throughout the country during the two-week lockdown.   

However, police are concerned that the public will not adhere to lockdown directives because of the vaccination drive launched last week and the severe economic crisis many Israelis are experiencing.

Between Friday and Saturday, 3,624 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus, the Health Ministry reported. Over that same period, 17 people died from it, bringing the total number of the dead to 3,203. The number of seriously ill patients was listed as 561, of whom 136 were on ventilators. Between Friday and Saturday, 39,244 tests were done, of which 3.7 percent were positive for COVID-19.

Josh Breiner contributed to this report.

Magen David Adom medics vaccinate residents of an assisted living facility in Tel Yitzhak, December 24, 2020.Credit: Hadas Forush

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