Israel imposed a new weekend shutdown on Friday and tightened a series of coronavirus curbs to lower infection rates, amid growing public anger over the government's handling of the crisis.
People would be allowed to leave their homes this weekend but malls, shops, pools, zoos and museums would shut from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, the government said in a statement.
Full weekend lockdowns that could confine people to their homes may be imposed by July 24, after the government gains parliamentary approval, Weekends in Israel begin on Friday afternoon, the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, and last until Sunday - a working day.
On weekends all shops, malls, beauty salons, hairdressers, and other non-essential supplies would be closed while shops offering food, drug and other essential supplies would remain open.
On all days, gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors and restaurants would be allowed to serve take-out only, and pools and gyms would be closed the government said.
A further decision on whether to keep summer schools and nurseries open would be made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Friday.
Israel reopened schools and many businesses in May, lifting restrictions that had flattened an infection curve after a partial lockdown imposed in March.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted to ministers that although the government is pushing for the closure of restaurants, gyms, and fitness studios, the state does not have data about the number of infections detected there and the decision is "based on common sense," but warned that a failure to curb the spread of the virus would result in 1,600 people needing ICU's within three weeks a number hospitals would be unable to sustain.
The Director-General of the Health Ministry Professor Hezi Levy told the cabinet he did not expect a coronavirus vaccine to be available before the next year.
Netanyahu convened health experts, and members of the National Security Council for a meeting earlier in the day, just hours after the Health Ministry reported 1,758 new cases of coronavirus were detected in the previous 24 hours, bringing the infection rate to an alarming 7.7%.
"Since daily infections nearly hit 1,800 cases and the number of seriously ill doubles every seven days, I have spoken to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, NSC chief Meir Ben Shabbat, and Science Minister Yizhar Shai, about taking short-term steps to avoid a general lockdown," said Netanyahu after the meeting.
First published: 08:26, 07.17.20