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March 23, 2020 3:52 pm

Israel Enacts New Restrictions in Response to Rising Number of Coronavirus Cases

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

People walk past closed stores inside a shopping center in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 15, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Nir Elias.

As the number of Israelis infected with the coronavirus continued to rise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered new restrictions and greater enforcement of the current lockdown.

Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported that Israelis will not be allowed to leave their homes except to buy food and medicines and to reach the few workplaces still operating.

Powers to enforce the quarantine will be expanded for the relevant authorities, including allowing police officers to fine violators on the spot.

Food deliveries will still be permitted, as well as the operations of banks and other essential businesses. Public transportation will almost entirely cease.

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The decision was taken after a marathon seven-hour meeting involving cabinet ministers and experts from the medical and economic fields. Besides the new restrictions, it was decided that a massive relief program for self-employed workers and business owners would be adopted on Tuesday.

While the Health Ministry supported the new restrictions, the Ministry of Economy was opposed, feeling that they could do devastating damage to an already stressed economy.

Netanyahu also ordered the establishment of a team to increase testing for the virus and possible mass screenings of the entire population.

As of Monday, 1,238 Israelis were infected with the coronavirus and 24 were considered to be in serious condition.

Another 34 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild cases.

Some 74,498 Israelis are currently in home quarantine.

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