Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the government's decision to impose a second lockdown came after medical experts raised the alarm due to the increase in seriously ill patients suffering from COVID-19.
The government announced a three-week nation-wide lockdown to begin on Friday in an effort to bring about a drop in coronavirus cases.
Health officials reported 11 new fatalities from COVID-19 Sunday bringing death toll to 1,119 while 519 patients remain in serious condition in hospitals of which 144 are on ventilators.
"I know those measures will exact a heavy price on us all," Netanyahu said in a televised address. "This is not the kind of holiday we are used to. And we certainly won't be able to celebrate with our extended families."
Israel is the only country thus far to impose a second country wide lockdown because of the spread of the virus.
Netanyahu said health teams were struggling to maintain the best care after months of a pandemic.
"We were warned of a spike in serious cases that could result in a number of deaths we have not seen before," he said, "the winter that is nearing may see seasonal flu added to the coronavirus case load so we must take steps in advance."
The prime minister said the decision to impose a lockdown during the High Holidays may have less of an impact on the economy because many places of work would be shut in any event.
Netanyahu claimed Israel's early action to curb the spread of the virus and the early reopening of the economy has put the country in a favorable economic situation compared to other nations and has kept the number of severe morbidity and fatalities relatively low.
He pushed back at criticism that he had not put the necessary mechanisms in place to cut chains of contagion and blamed lawmakers for blocking government measures and foiling policies meant to mitigate contagion or that his decisions were impacted by political considerations.
Ultra-Orthodox minister Yaakov Litzman announced his resignation from his position as Housing Minister earlier in the day, in protest claiming a lockdown during the High Holidays is an affront to the religious public.
The Haredi community that had been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic had slammed government's efforts to restrict their movements claiming discrimination wsome of its leaders have ignored health directives and encouraged their followers to continue study and prayer.
Netanyahu said a plan to allow worship during the holidays would be announced.
"We believe we will be able to lower the number of cases if the public is vigilant and observes the directives," he said.
Netanyahu walked out of the press conference telling reporters he is flying to Washington where he will participate in a signing ceremony with representatives of the UAE and Bahrain after he succeeded in achieving what he called "peace for peace" agreements.
The prime minister committed to suspending annexation of parts of the West Bank, a campaign promise he had made, in order to win UAE's consent to normalize ties.
The UAE would also be able to purchase advanced F-35 fighter jets and unmanned aircraft containing advanced weapons systems that could endanger Israel's strategic superiority in the region.
First published: 22:16, 09.13.20