Israel went back into a full lockdown on Friday to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has steadily worsened for months as its government has been plagued by indecision and infighting.
The three-week lockdown, which began at 2 pm, will require many businesses to close and sets strict limits on movement and public gatherings.
The closures coincide with the Jewish High Holidays, when people typically visit their families and gather for large prayer services.
In an address on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that even stricter measures may be needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. There are currently more than 46,000 active cases, with at least 577 hospitalised in serious condition.
“It could be that we will have no choice but to make the directives more stringent,” Mr Netanyahu said. “I will not impose a lockdown on the citizens of Israel for no reason, and I will not hesitate to add further restrictions if it is necessary.”
Under the new lockdown, nearly all businesses open to the public will be closed. People must remain within 1 kilometre of home, but there are several exceptions, including shopping for food or medicine, going to work in a business that is closed to the public, attending protests and even seeking essential pet care.
Israel has reported more than 175,000 cases since the outbreak began, including at least 1,169 deaths. It is now reporting about 5,000 new cases a day, one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world.
Israel was among the first countries to impose sweeping lockdowns, sealing its borders, forcing most businesses to close and largely confining people to their homes. That succeeded in bringing the number of new cases down to only a few dozen per day in May.
But then the economy abruptly reopened, and a new government was sworn in that was paralysed by infighting. In recent months authorities have announced various restrictions only to see them ignored or reversed even as new cases soared to record levels.
The occupied West Bank has followed a similar trajectory, with a spring lockdown largely containing its outbreak followed by a rise of cases that forced the Palestinian Authority to impose a 10-day lockdown in July. The PA has reported more than 30,000 cases in the West Bank and about 240 deaths.