Israel to reimpose virus lockdown as European cases mount

Israel said Sunday it will reimpose a national lockdown after coronavirus cases soared, while European nations grappled with mounting infections against a backdrop of protests against restrictions aimed at reining in the pandemic.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the three-week lockdown, which will hold people to within 500 metres (yards) of their homes, will start on Friday and could be extended.

The plan prompted the resignation of ultra-Orthodox Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who said the measures would prevent Jews from attending synagogue over the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays.

According to an AFP tally, Israel is second only to Bahrain for the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate by population.

Britain, France, Austria and the Czech Republic were among European countries reporting surges, with new cases in the UK reaching more than 3,000 in 24 hours for the second day in a row on Saturday.

After a spate of local lockdowns this month, new government restrictions come into force across England on Monday, limiting social gatherings to no more than six people.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the country was already facing “the beginning of the second wave” as new daily infections climbed towards 1,000.

Kurz said the government would further restrict events and extend the areas where mask-wearing is mandatory to include all shops and public buildings.

The Czech Republic meanwhile registered 1,541 new cases on Saturday, posting a record growth for the third day in a row.

“If the epidemic keeps growing in this explosive way, we will get to the very limit of our hospital capacity,” epidemiologist Roman Prymula told Czech Television on Sunday.

France reported 10,000 new infections on Saturday, close to the peak of the first wave in April, however the number fell to 7,183 on Sunday.

Worldwide, 921,387 people have died of the virus from among 28.8 million cases. (Jonah MANDEL with AFP bureaus)