Israel set to ease coronavirus lockdown measures from Sunday

Jerusalem, Oct 17 (AFP/APP):Israel is preparing to ease some lockdown restrictions from Sunday in the “first phase” of scaling back measures imposed last month to stem soaring novel coronavirus infection rates.

Israel, a country of about nine million people, has recorded 301,896 coronavirus cases, including 2,141 deaths. The easing of some of the rules, in force since September 18, was approved Thursday by the government, contingent on new cases being no higher than 2,000 per day, according to a statement by the health ministry and the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Friday, there were 1,695 new cases, according to official figures, down from around 8,000-9,000 per day at the end of September. The lifting of restrictions is scheduled to take place in several phases, through to February 2021. One key measure expected to be lifted on Sunday is a restriction on people moving more than one kilometre (less than a mile) from their home.

That rule sparked anger from some Israelis who claimed it was designed to stem protests against Netanyahu. Children’s nurseries, as well as beaches and national parks, are set to reopen. So too is the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

People will also be able to visit friends or relatives, as long as gatherings remain no more than 10 if inside, and 20 outside.

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