Israel will go on a nationwide lockdown for three weeks over the High Holiday period beginning on the eve of the Jewish New Year on Friday, the coronavirus cabinet announced Sunday evening after an hours-long debate on the matter.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the lockdown may be extended after the three weeks are up if the numbers of infected don’t stabilize.
Netanyahu urged Israelis to adhere to the guidelines otherwise the “virus will spread and claim many lives.”
Schools, malls, restaurants, hotels and all recreational venues will be shuttered and people have been ordered not to venture more than 500 meters (0.3 miles) from their homes.
Private businesses are expected to be allowed to continue operating.
Many ministers bitterly opposed the decision, warning the economy would not recover.
Regional Cooperation Minister Ophir Akunis (Likud) said a full lockdown it would be “a disaster for the Israeli economy.”
Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir (Blue and White) argued “a full closure of the entire country during the holidays is too extreme a step and has economic implications that entire industries will not recover from.”
Housing and Construction Minister Ya’acov Litzman, from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, announced his resignation in protest over the lockdown, arguing it had been deliberately delayed until the start of the Jewish holiday when it could have been imposed a month ago.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said he had “no choice” but to push for a lockdown.
“For three months, I tried to avoid a lockdown. I did everything so that we could live alongside the coronavirus, with rules here and there,” he said.
The health minister added if the rules are kept, “there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” and called on the public to cooperate.
Although no rules have been laid out, prayers at synagogues for the High Holidays will be permitted but in a “very limited” format, Edelstein said.