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Israel to impose second lockdown as coronavirus cases surge

Israelis continue protests over Netanyahu alleged corruption, Covid-19 response

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday said a national lockdown would be reimposed for three weeks after coronavirus cases soared. Last week Netanyahu announced overnight curfews on some 40 cities and towns hit hard by the coronavirus, but backed away from reported recommendations for full lockdowns after an uproar by politically powerful religious politicians.

It is now seeing more than 4,000 daily cases of the virus.

A sticking point in government deliberations over the lockdown was what prayers would look like during the holidays. "This is not the holiday we are used to".

Israelis angry with the government over the rise in cases have cited the rapid reopening of businesses, with some arguing insufficient financial measures forced people back to work prematurely.

Israel is about to enter a second COVID-19 lockdown, according to The Times.

It makes them the first country in the world to reimpose nationwide lockdown restrictions.

The first lockdown went into effect in April when the virus first arrived.

It remains to be seen what impact this lockdown will have on protests against Netanyahu that have entered their 13th week.

Officials had feared that large gatherings during the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashanah could trigger new outbreaks.

Before the government vote, Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman announced his resignation to protest against the lockdown measures.

Officials pressed ahead with the start of the school year earlier this month in all but a few places with particularly high infection rates.

An abandonment of caution after restrictions were eased, together with government inaction as cases climbed, have sent infections surging ninefold and deaths quadrupling since late May.

While initially earning praise for the quick response to close the country's borders, Netanyahu has since been blamed for opening businesses and schools too quickly and allowing the virus to spread unchecked.

Much of that criticism has been aimed at Netanyahu, who has faced a public outcry over his handling of the crisis and has seen thousands of protesters descend on his Jerusalem residence every week.

"Instead of enforcing the rules in a strict way and systematically punishing those not wearing masks or who organised gatherings of hundreds of people, they are punishing us all collectively", said Mr Barak Yeivin, 56, director of the Jerusalem Conservatory of Music and Dance.