Israel to enter third national lockdown amid rising covid cases

Israel announced a third national lockdown this morning, which could last up to four weeks if coronavirus death rates do not decrease significantly.

Shopping centres and most schools will be closed starting Sunday evening, according to a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

The lockdown will start at 5pm on Sunday and will provisionally last two weeks.

The statement said: "There is an option to extend the lockdown for an additional two weeks, unless the basic reproduction number [for the virus] falls below 1 and the number of new cases per day falls below 1,000."

Similar to the last lockdown, restaurants will be allowed to operate for delivery only and gatherings will be restricted to 20 people outdoors and 10 indoors.

READ: UK COVID-19 variant detected in Israel, health ministry says

In contrast to previous lockdowns, however, the education system will continue to function, with some restrictions, reports the Jerusalem Post.

The lockdown announcement comes after the number of new infections has surged to over 3,000 cases per day for the last several days, including 3,136 deaths.

It also comes after Israel detected four cases of the new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in Britain, the Israeli health ministry said yesterday, Reuters reports.

In response, it has banned foreign nationals arriving from Britain, Denmark and South Africa, where a separate new strain has emerged. It also imposed a mandatory quarantine for all arrivals from abroad.

Israel launched a coronavirus vaccination drive on Saturday and has vaccinated 70,000 of its nine million population, health ministry data shows.

Having secured vaccines from drugmakers Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, Israel expects to have enough doses by the end of the year for the 20 per cent of its population most prone to COVID-19 complications.

READ: Israel's govt on brink of collapse as budget deadline looms with no deal

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