Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Wednesday evening that the coronavirus lockdown may last months or even up to a year.
During a meeting of the so-called Coronavirus Cabinet, which leads the government's response to the pandemic, the premier told fellow ministers that "exiting the lockdown will be slow and gradual this time, and could last even half a year to a year."
The government came under fire for what many deemed to be a hasty lifting of COVID-19 restrictions after the last lockdown in the spring, and for failing to reimpose restrictions when infections began to soar again in July.
An argument also broke out between Cabinet members over tightening travel restrictions for civilians who are currently only allowed to venture one kilometer (0.6 miles) away from home for non-essential reasons.
Prime Minister Netanyahu was among those who insisted on further limiting movement, joined by Transportation Minister Miri Regev who suggested limiting traveling distance to 100-200 meters (330-660 feet) from home.
Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz opposed the proposal to further restrict travel, saying the constant zigzagging was confusing the public. Netanyahu then lashed out at Gantz.
Cabinet members have also voted for an extended outline that will see coronavirus testing in nursing homes and geriatric institutions doubled and will provide further support for senior citizens against the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported Wednesday evening that 821 Israelis are being treated in serious condition across the country's hospitals, among them record-high 212 patients receiving respiratory support from ventilators.
Since midnight, 17 more Israelis have passed away due to complications of COVID-19 and the country's death toll stood at 1,552 virus-related fatalities, 6.8% are under the age of 60.
Health authorities reported that 5,443 new coronavirus infections out of some 40,000 coronavirus tests carried out since midnight, meaning 13.4% of tests yielded a positive result.
Since the onset of the pandemic in Israel, 243,895 Israelis have tested positive for the pathogen and 174,232 of them recovered.