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Israel to impose nightly curfew for at least three weeks, could lead to third full national lockdown

Residents will be restricted to a certain perimeter from 6 or 7 p.m. through Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's

Knesset Member and coronavirus committee chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton visits a bakery in northern Israel where all 120 employees are to be fired after COVID restrictions caused severe economic hardship. Pictured with Avichai Stern, Mayor of Kiryat Shmona, and Gilad Aharonson, director of the factory. (Photo: Facebook)

The country is headed for its third lockdown in one year due to a rise in COVID-19 infections.

Late Monday the coronavirus cabinet approved a nightly lockdown which will begin on Wednesday lasting until Jan. 2, covering Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's.

Under the first phase, Israelis will be restricted to a perimeter near their homes from 6 or 7 p.m. until 5 or 6 a.m. But during the days, most businesses will be open. Under the second phase, a “tightening of restrictions” may shutter all storefront businesses.

If the infection rate goes up, a a total national lockdown would go into effect on Jan. 1. 

This while certain segments of the economy — such as malls, gyms and restaurants — have yet to even reopen since this lockdown began on Sept. 18.

Not everyone is favor of another lockdown.

"After almost a year in this pandemic, it's time to think outside the box, manage risks differently, take into account all the 'invisible victims' of the crisis who still have not returned to routine as we threaten them with a third lockdown (they are still on lockdown in case you missed it ) and, most importantly, stop with the manipulation,” coronavirus committee chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton wrote on her Facebook page.

Shasha-Biton told reporters that the reasoning to impose more restrictions was illogical and hasn't taken into account other health aspects such as physical and mental fitness.

The coronavirus committee and the coronavirus cabinet are frequently at odds.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading the lockdown charge.

"I said yesterday that I will not hesitate to add restrictions or bring back restrictions," he said.

Before the vote he said "we do not want to wait for another spike that will be difficult to stop. That is why we want to convene the coronavirus cabinet today and make the right, firm, non-populist decisions that limit the restrictions both in scope and time period."

The Health Ministry reported Monday 1,352 new cases, 3.2% of those who were tested. The death toll is 2,924 and the number of patients in serious condition is 333.

The Palestinians aren’t faring much better: The Palestinian Authority has put Bethlehem, Nablus, Hebron and Tulkarem under a full lockdown starting Thursday for one week. A night curfew in all other areas will remain in effect.

The Prime Minister's office distributed a description of the steps decided upon in the Cabinet on Monday:

"1. Effective Wednesday, 9 December 2020, a night lockdown will be imposed. During the night lockdown, commercial activity shall be prohibited and restrictions will be imposed on movement between areas. The restrictions will be submitted for Cabinet approval.

2. All persons returning from abroad, and from red countries in particular, will be obliged to be tested as a condition for home quarantine. (Without a test quarantine in a designated hotel shall be required.)

3. Malls and markets will be opened according to the rules determined in the pilot program except in red areas.

4. Strictly limited activity shall be permitted at museums and cultural venues according to the agreements between the health and culture ministries.

5. The 'green islands' plan shall continue to be operated. Legislation will be advanced on the issue.

6. The education system will continue to operate in green and yellow areas unless a lockdown is imposed at a future date.

7. Occupancy will be more widely spaced on public transportation.

8. Steps shall be taken to increase enforcement and stiffen fines. The restrictions shall not infringe on the right to demonstrate."

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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