Israel extends COVID-19 lockdown

Israel extends COVID-19 lockdown

Israel has extended its third COVID-19 lockdown to Sunday, at which point nationwide curbs will be eased slowly, it announced in a government statement.

The decision was made on Friday hours before the lockdown was due to expire, following disputes between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner, Defence Minister Benny Gantz, over its duration, efficacy and patchy enforcement, Reuters reported.

The latest lockdown was imposed from Dec. 27, shortly after Israel began the world’s fastest vaccination drive. The twin measures have only moderately reduced deaths and serious illness, given the spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants.

Israel has had 675,618 COVID-19 cases and 5,001 related deaths, according to the health ministry. It has a population of 9 million.

Starting at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Sunday, curbs on travel within and between towns will be lifted, workplaces that do not receive customers can be reopened, and admission allowed at open-air nature reserves and parks, the government statement said.