Israel reimposed on Monday a series of restrictions to fight a spike in coronavirus infections, including the immediate closure of bars, night clubs, gyms and event halls.
In public remarks at a special cabinet session on the health crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had to reverse course to avoid a wider lockdown that could paralyse its economy, where unemployment is just above 20%.
“The pandemic is spreading – that’s as clear as day. It is rising steeping daily and it is dragging with it, contrary to what we had been told, a trail of critically ill patients,” Netanyahu said.
A government announcement said that in addition to the immediate shuttering of bars, night clubs, gyms, event halls and cultural events, the number of diners in restaurants would be limited to 20 indoors and 30 outdoors.
Attendance at synagogues was also capped at 19 worshippers, and buses would be allowed to carry only up to 20 passengers, the statement said.
After largely containing the spread of the coronavirus in May and reopening schools, beaches and businesses, Israel has been hit by a sharp rise in infections in recent weeks.
Scenes of Israelis ignoring social distancing restrictions and orders to wear masks outside have been common.
In Israel, more than 30,000 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 332 have died.
Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank imposed a full lockdown on Friday as new cases there surged. In all, there have been nearly 4,300 cases reported in the West Bank, with 16 deaths, and 72 in Gaza, where one person died.