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Israel Imposes 2nd Nationwide Lockdown As COVID-19 Cases Skyrocket


So after largely going back to their normal lives this summer, Israelis are facing a nationwide lockdown now for the second time. Coronavirus infection rates have been skyrocketing there and in the Gaza Strip. Here's NPR's Daniel Estrin from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Israel quickly reopened this spring. People held big weddings. And by early this month, Israel was topping 4,000 new virus cases a day, the highest number per million people in the world. The death rate is low. But severe infections are rising. Epidemiologist Ora Paltiel from Hadassah Hospital.

ORA PALTIEL: We saw some hospital directors within the last week crying out, that they haven't reached crisis proportions yet. But they're getting there.

ESTRIN: To ease the burden on hospitals, Israel is imposing some of the strictest measures of any nation. Starting Friday, Israelis will be banned from going more than half a kilometer. From their homes. Some businesses can stay open, but schools will close. And indoor gatherings will be capped at 10 people. The lockdown will begin on the eve of the Jewish new year and will last for at least three weeks. Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip are also under a strict lockdown. Infections there rose 80% this month. Now there are more than 100 new cases a day. Abdelnaser Soboh is with the World Health Organization in Gaza.

ABDELNASER SOBOH: We are expecting that this figure will change dramatically in the coming weeks because the testing among community has not started yet. And when it start, we will discover many, many other hundreds and thousands of cases.

ESTRIN: He says international aid groups are aiming to send more testing equipment and medical aid to Gaza. Without intervention, he predicts Gaza's weak health system could be overwhelmed within two months.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF AK'S "23.01.2018") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.