Israel’s cabinet has unanimously approved, effective immediately, emergency measures aimed at combating the nation’s coronavirus outbreak. In a televised speech Thursday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Israelis would be forced to stay at home for at least one week, placing the country on near-total lockdown. “This isn’t a request, this isn’t a recommendation, but a binding requirement that will be enforced,” Netanyahu said, adding: “The purpose of these instructions [is] to ensure [that] as few people will be infected and will infect [others].” He acknowledged that the restrictions were “unlike any since the founding of the State of Israel [in 1948].” According to the new guidelines, residents must remain in self-quarantine unless they are engaged in what is deemed essential work; to stock up at the supermarket or pharmacy; or to receive medical attention. Additional exceptions – so long as they adhere to pre-existing regulations – include short periods of physical activity with nor more than five people; the right to demonstrate in groups of 10 or less individuals (all larger gatherings have already been banned); and attending family functions or prayer sessions. It comes as Israeli health officials raised the country’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – to at least 677.
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