As part of Israel’s health emergency response, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has disclosed that the country would be undergoing its third national lockdown to curb spread of the deadly second wave of coronavirus.
He explained that the lockdown which would take effect on Sunday evening and last for 14 days, pending final cabinet approval, had been considered to mitigate possible fatalities projected by health experts.
The prime minister announcement was coming at a time when the country detected four cases of the new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in Britain.
The new variant of the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Britain and prompting high levels of concern among its European neighbours, some of which have cut transport links.
Israel closed its borders to foreigners in March, with exceptions including students and journalists. Under new restrictions adopted this week, it nixed those exceptions for non-citizen arrivals from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Denmark, citing risk of the new coronavirus strain.
From Wednesday evening until Jan. 1, all Israelis who return from abroad must isolate at hotel quarantine facilities, according to a directive posted to the country’s Health Ministry’s website.
Israel launched a coronavirus vaccination drive on Saturday and has vaccinated 70,000 out of its 9 million population, health ministry data shows.
Having secured vaccines from drugmakers Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, Israel expects to have enough doses by the end of the year for the 20% of its population most prone to COVID-19 complications.
Israel has reported 383,385 coronavirus cases and 3,136 deaths. It has earlier imposed two national lockdowns.