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On the eve of Yom Kippur, Israel reaching the ‘point of no return’ in fight against coronavirus

Health Ministry director-general predicts Israel’s three-week closure to last longer as 15% of test results return positive

Left photo: Thousands attend forgivness prayer (Selichot), at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem early on October 8, 2019, prior to the upcoming Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 Right photo: Jewish men pray for forgivness (Selichot), at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City on September 26, 2020. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israel is approaching the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, in the shadow of a full lockdown and a record number of 8,315 new COVID-19 cases reported on Saturday.

The Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy said Sunday that he believed the country would not return to its pre-lockdown state immediately after the end of the Jewish holiday period, warning that Israel is “almost at the point of no return.”

“I feel like we aren’t seeing what is happening and where we are going. We are seeing mass gatherings, with fear of [Yom Kippur] prayer services in places where we asked to limit the number of participants,” Levi said. “I assume we won’t exit the lockdown immediately after Simchat Torah [on Oct. 10]. I assume we won’t return to the daily routine as it was before. School studies also will not fully resume immediately after Sukkot.”

Levy said infection rates have neared 15 percent in recent days. That figure must go below 10 percent, he said.

Protests and Prayers

Despite talk that protests would be banned during the lockdown, there was no vote on either that or synagogue closures — the most controversial suggestions — in the Knesset before Shabbat on Saturday. A vote will likely be taken on Tuesday, after Yom Kippur.

But with no new restrictions in place, some 16,000 protesters joined anti-government demonstrations across Israel. Man of the protestors wore masks and observed social distancing, however police made some arrests and protestors blocked roads on their way there.

The number of patients in serious condition was at 719 as of Sunday.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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