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Israel imposes second coronavirus lockdown during high holidays

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Israel will enter a second nationwide lockdown on Friday at the onset of the Jewish high-holiday season, forcing residents to stay mostly at home amid a resurgence in new coronavirus cases.

The country’s initial lockdown was imposed in late March and eased in May as new cases tapered off, reaching lows in the single digits.

But Israeli leaders now acknowledge they lifted restrictions too soon in the hope of avoiding further economic damage by reopening the private sector. They had also permitted mass gatherings, which contributed in pushing new cases to daily highs of over 5,000.

The new lockdown, which is due to begin at 2pm (1100 GMT) and will last three weeks, coincides with the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, traditionally a time for large family gatherings and group prayer.

Social distancing and limits on the number of worshippers will go into effect at synagogues, usually packed for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement that begins at sunset on September 27.

Since the outbreak began, 1,169 people have died in Israel, a country of 9 million.