As Israel enters third lockdown, COVID cases exceed 393,000

Tel Aviv: The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has reached 393,036 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including new 9,651 cases detected over the past two days, as the country is expected to enter the third nationwide lockdown in a row, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

A total of 33,808 people are currently under treatment, the ministry added, noting that 506 patients are in serious condition, including 128 on artificial lung ventilators. The coronavirus-related deaths now stand at 3,171.

Starting from 5 pm local time (15:00 GMT) on Sunday, Israel is set to enter the new COVID-19 lockdown jointly ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the health ministry. The lockdown will be in force for at least two weeks with the possibility of extension for an additional 14-day period in case there is no significant decline in the spread of the disease.

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Israel has already been shut down twice this year — in March and then again in September. Thanks to such measures, the country succeeded in curbing the infection rate, but there a notable recurrence after the lockdowns were phased out.

Last week, Israel received the first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, after the government inked a deal with the developers for eight million doses. In addition, Israel has concluded agreements with other companies producing vaccine candidates, including US firm Moderna.

Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin were some of the first people to be vaccinated against the disease after the mass vaccination campaign in Israel kicked off on December 20. The same day, Israel suspended flights to the United Kingdom, Denmark, and South Africa to prevent new COVID-19 strains from entering the country.

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Citizens returning from abroad must self-isolate in special hotels beginning on Tuesday, while foreigners are not allowed to visit Israel except on special occasions.

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