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Israel returns to lockdown

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel went back into a full lockdown on Friday to try to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has steadily worsened for months as its government has been plagued by indecision and infighting.

The three-week lockdown, which began at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT), will require the closure of many businesses and set strict limits on movement and public gatherings. The closures coincide with the Jewish High Holidays, when people typically visit their families and gather for large prayer services. In an address late Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that even stricter measures may be needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. There are currently more than 46,000 active cases, with at least 577 hospitalized in serious condition.

“It could be that we will have no choice but to make the directives more stringent,” Netanyahu said. “I will not impose a lockdown on the citizens of Israel for no reason, and I will not hesitate to add further restrictions if it is necessary.”

Under the new lockdown, nearly all businesses open to the public will be closed. People must remain within 0.6 miles of home, but there are several exceptions, including shopping for food or medicine, going to work in a business that’s closed to the public, attending protests and even seeking essential pet care.

Israel has reported a total of more than 175,000 cases since the outbreak began, including at least 1,169 deaths. It is now reporting around 5,000 new cases a day, one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world.

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