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July 6, 2020 10:52 am

As Coronavirus Cases Surge, Israeli Cabinet Approves Sweeping New Restrictions

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A bartender and customers wear face masks to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a bar in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 4, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

The Israeli cabinet, following recommendations of the Health Ministry, approved on Monday sweeping new restrictions in an attempt to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in recent weeks.

The restrictions include, among other things: an immediate closure of clubs, bars, gyms, public swimming pools and wedding halls; a limit at restaurants 20 customers inside and 30 outside; a limit at synagogues of 19 worshipers; a cancellation of cultural events; a limit of 20 passengers on buses; and a limit of 20 people at public gatherings.

At a Monday cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The pandemic is spreading — it is as clear as the sun. It is rising sharply on a daily basis and is dragging along — contrary to what we have been told — severe cases in its wake.”

“Today, there are around 90 severe cases and the number is doubling every four days,” he noted. “If we do not act now, we will have hundreds, and perhaps over 1,000, severe cases in the coming weeks, which will paralyze our systems. Therefore, we must take immediate steps that will prevent us from having to take even more extreme measures later.”

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“I point out that we will, separately, work on and submit very soon an economic corona package in order to help whoever is hurt by the steps that we take today, and by other things as well,” he added. “We will help businesses, the self-employed and workers.”

The current unemployment rate in Israel is just over 20 percent.

There have been more than 30,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel, and 332 deaths.

A large uptick in infections began after Israel started to reopen businesses and schools in May, following a largely successful effort to contain the initial outbreak of the disease earlier this year.

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