The whole of Israel will be on a strict lockdown for the first few days of the Passover holiday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday night, as part of the measures to fight the spread of coronavirus.
He also said that there would be a full curfew on Wednesday night, to deter people who may be tempted to visit family and friends during the Jewish festival.
The prime minister said the nationwide lockdown would last from 4 pm Tuesday until 7 am Friday. The curfew will last from 6 pm Wednesday until 7 am Thursday,m during which time people would be confined to their homes.
Speaking a televised address, Netanyahu urged Israelis to adhere to the restrictions, which he said would be enforced by police.
"It is important to protect your health and the health of your loved ones," he said.
Netanyahu also paid tribute to the medical professionals, IDF soldiers and police officers who were working to keep Israelis safe, calling them "angels in white and angels in uniform."
The prime minister said there were some optimistic indications that the spread of the coronavirus has slowed down, but the holiday week is crucial to maintain that trajectory. The Passover holiday begins on Wednesday night and lasts for eight days and is traditionally a time to spend with loved ones.
Because of these optimistic indications, the prime minister said the government was preparing plans for Israel's exit from the crisis.
Those plans, he said, would breathe life back into the economy after a record-breaking NIS 90 billion package was approved by the government Sunday to assist small businesses and the unemployed.
He also called on urged Israelis to purchase Israeli-made products to help the local industry.
He said that despite difficulties along the supply chain that had delayed the increase in testing that he had promised, he believed there would be 10,000 tests conducted daily within a number of days, saying procurement efforts around the world continued for vital medical supplies.
Briefly turning to politics, Netanyahu said that despite the current stalemate with Blue & White, it was possible to reach an agreement on a unity government.
"I am convinced that we can reach a unity government," he said. "The way is not yet blocked. There are obstacles, but I believe that with goodwill, we can get there.
"We can get there soon, and we must. Unity is needed not just at the political level, but also within Israeli society."
He added: "I spoke earlier in the day with Russian President Vladimir Putin who praised the efforts we have been undertaking. I told Putin I had stepped away from a meeting with Benny Gantz and he said unity was very important for Israel."
The prime minister condemned the view expressed by many Israelis who singled out the ultra-Orthodox community for ignoring health guidelines and increasing the spread of coronavirus among the population.