Israel decides to extend COVID-19 lockdown for 5 days

Israel’s special cabinet for handling the COVID-19 pandemic decided on Tuesday to extend by five days the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

The lockdown, which started on Sept. 18 and was originally supposed to be lifted on Wednesday, will be extended until midnight on Sunday, a government spokesperson told Xinhua.

The move was agreed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, and later ratified by the ministers.

The special cabinet is expected to reconvene on Thursday to discuss again the extension of the lockdown. The ministers also planned to discuss a possible lifting of some of the restrictions.

Local media reported that during the Tuesday meeting, Finance Minister Israel Katz and the ministers with the Blue and White party, Netanyahu’s main coalition partner, called for reopening small businesses and kindergartens.

“Small businesses are collapsing,” Katz was quoted by Channel 12 TV news as saying.

According to the figures presented by Katz’s office, a two-week extension of the current lockdown is expected to result in a loss of 13 billion shekels (about 3.8 billion U.S. dollars) to the Israeli economy.

Easing the restrictions by allowing businesses that do not attend clients to reopen, will cut the cost by about half, an official with the finance ministry said in the meeting.

Netanyahu and his government have been under growing public anger over their failure to prevent the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis.