Israel restricts outgoing flights as Netanyahu govt bolsters 2nd coronavirus lockdown
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The Israeli government slapped restrictions on outgoing flights on Friday as part of its measures to bolster a second Covid-19 lockdown, imposed last week amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The new rule “enables leaving the country for whoever bought an airplane ticket prior to the beginning of quarantine entry, i.e. today at 1400,” Transport Minister Miri Regev explained in a Facebook post. “The flight ticket buyers beyond this date will not be able to redeem them.” Israelis can return though, “without limitations,” the minister said, adding that a 14-day quarantine will be imposed on people arriving from “red countries” which are registering high coronavirus rates.

Israel tightened its second lockdown – which was imposed on September 18 – on Friday, and will close workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers. Authorities had already closed schools and imposed restrictions on work and leisure.

Synagogues will now be closed except on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which begins on Sunday afternoon, but the numbers of worshippers must be limited. Only outdoor prayers attended by a maximum of 20 people will be allowed at other times.

The new measures had yet to be finalized in parliament just hours before they were due to come into force.

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Police check cars as Israel enters a second nationwide lockdown amid a resurgence in new coronavirus disease cases, outside Jerusalem's Old City, September 18, 2020. © Reuters / Ronen Zvulun
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The country, with a population of nine million, has the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per capita, according to an AFP tally. Health officials have recorded more than 215,000 coronavirus infections and 1,378 deaths to date – and more than 7,500 new cases were reported on Thursday alone.

According to PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the further restrictions were necessary because Israelis have not complied with social distancing requirements.

“Something needs to be done and it must be done now – a tight lockdown, especially during the holidays, when the economic cost is much lower,” he said.

The government had also sought to restrict citizens’ protests to within 1km (0.6 miles) of their homes. This would have effectively halted ongoing demonstrations outside Netanyahu’s residence over his handling of the pandemic and the economy, as well as over corruption allegations. The PM denies any wrongdoing. However, MPs failed to agree on that protest restriction measure before the tightened lockdown took effect on Friday.

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