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Israel imposes third nationwide COVID-19 lockdown amid vaccination drive

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-12-28 09:45
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Shop owner shutters his store, as Israel imposes a third national lockdown to fight climbing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Tel Aviv, Israel Dec 27, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] 

JERUSALEM - Israel entered on Sunday the third nationwide lockdown as the country gears up a vaccination drive to curb a resurging wave of COVID-19 infections.

The restrictions will last at least two weeks, pending a final decision by the coronavirus cabinet.

From 5 pm local time (1500 GMT), all people are required to stay within 1,000 meters of their home, except for commuting to workplaces that have been defined as "essential", seeking medical care, attending legal proceedings, and exercising.

Restaurants and shops were closed, except for deliveries.

Unlike the two previous lockdowns, kindergartens, schools for children under six, and secondary schools for grades 11 and 12 will remain open during the current lockdown.

The finance ministry estimated in a statement last week that reimposing the lockdown will cost the Israeli economy about 3 billion new shekels (930 million US dollars) a week.

A day earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was hopeful that the country's vaccination drive will help beat the pandemic, as Israel is entering the second week of its vaccination drive.

In the current stage, however, only the elderly, people at high risk, and medical teams are given the vaccine.

According to Netanyahu, Israel can provide up to 150,000 vaccine shots per day by Jan 1, 2021.

"Since everyone needs two injections, after one month we will have vaccinated 2.25 million Israeli citizens," the prime minister said.

With a population of about 9 million, the Israeli health ministry reported on Sunday morning a total of 400,099 cases of COVID-19 and 3,222 deaths.

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