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Coronavirus cases explode in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — According to a new report, Israel’s daily number of deaths from the coronavirus is higher than the US on a per capita basis.

Israel’s daily rate over the week beginning Sept. 20 has been an average of 3.5 deaths per million people. The US rate was 2.2 deaths per million.

Meuhedet Health Services carries out COVID-19 testing in Lod, July 2, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The report was published Sept. 27 by the Coronavirus Information and Knowledge Center, a task force formed by the Israel army’s military intelligence with cooperation from the Health Ministry, according to Israeli media reports.

Israel also has a higher infection and mortality rate per million people than the US, France, Britain, Italy, Austria and South Korea, Haaretz reported, citing the report.

The Ministry of Health reported 1,507 deaths overall from the coronavirus as of Tuesday morning, Sept. 29.

Also Tuesday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told the Kan national broadcaster that there is “no chance” that the new lockdown recently imposed in Israel will be lifted at the end of the Sukkot holiday on Oct. 11.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed the remarks, saying on Facebook Live that “the closure will last a month and maybe much longer. Targets and indices have been set and they will dictate how long it will last.”

Last weekend, Israel confirmed more than 8,000 new coronavirus cases in one day, a new high, as the rate of tests coming back positive climbed to 14% and Netanyahu acknowledged that the country opened too fast after the first lockdown.

Israel is nearly three weeks into a second lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. On Sept. 26, the Health Ministry reported that 8,315 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed the previous day.

“Did we make mistakes in the past? Of course,” Netanyahu said in a Hebrew video posted on social media. “The opening of event halls was too fast. Maybe the opening of the whole school system,” he said. “Our decision to open event halls was too fast. Perhaps also the decision to reopen all schools.”

Meanwhile, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu apologized specifically to haredi Orthodox Israelis, who have felt targeted by the restrictions. A top haredi lawmaker resigned from the government to protest the lockdown’s timing during the High Holidays.

Netanyahu had called on Israelis to avoid attending synagogue on Yom Kippur, on Monday, which the vast majority of them do in a typical year. The lockdown rules permit up to 50 people to attend services indoor at a time in some areas, and 25 in areas with high infection rates.

Legislation limiting public protest passed early Wednesday, Sept. 30, by the Knesset. Protests numbering up to 20,000 have been taking place outside of Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence for several months, led by various groups protesting his remaining in office while on trial for corruption, his handling of the economy and his failure to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The legislation will cap protests at 2,000 individuals protesting in 100 capsules of 20 people, based on the size of the area designated for protest outside of the prime minister’s official residence, according to the Times of Israel.

The legislation also says that protesters must live within a 0.6-mile radius of the building.

The limits were approved alongside the approval of a special state of emergency, which means that rules may be extended for up to three weeks, but each extension will need to be passed in the Cabinet and can be canceled by the Law, Constitution and Justice Committee. The state of emergency does not allow for a complete ban on either protests or religious observance, including prayer services.

On Facebook, Netanyahu had offered oblique criticism of the protesters.

He juxtaposed a picture of the Western Wall Plaza uncharacteristically empty against a picture of 16,000 protesters who gathered in Jerusalem on Sept. 26.

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