Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a briefing on coronavirus developments in Israel at his office in Jerusalem, on September 13, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
Israel's government announced Saturday it would impose a three-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to stem one of the world's highest novel coronavirus infection rates after a surge in cases.
The lockdown order, set to go into effect on Friday, makes Israel the first developed economy to take such a drastic measure to curb a "second wave" of virus infections.
Israel had initially been widely praised for curbing the spread of the Covid-19 disease by imposing a stringent lockdown in March, but it is now second only to Bahrain for the world's highest coronavirus infection rate per capita, according to an AFP tally.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the government decision in a televised statement, saying the cabinet had agreed "a strict (lockdown) plan for three weeks, with an option that it will be extended".
"Our goal is to stop the increase, to reduce the contagion," which has crossed the threshold of 4,000 new cases a day, he added.
The lockdown is set to begin from 1100 GMT on Friday, just hours before the start of the Jewish New Year and the High Holidays, which also include the Day of Atonement and Sukkot.
The announcement comes despite pushback from part of the ultra-Orthodox contingent in government over enforcing a lockdown during the holidays.
Under the lockdown guidelines, still to be finalised, indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 20, meaning prayers at synagogues would be severely impacted.
Restaurants are set to be closed to on-site dining and movement will be limited to 500 metres (1,650 feet) from one's home.
"I know these measures will exact a heavy price from all of us," Netanyahu said.
"This is not the holiday time we're used to, we certainly won't be able to celebrate with our extended families."