Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing mew measures to tackle the coronavirus CREDIT: Yonatan Sindel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday a complete lockdown over the first day of Passover this week in an effort to control the country’s coronavirus outbreak, but offered citizens some hope by saying the restrictions that have been in place over the past several weeks, which have placed a strict limit on gatherings, would be gradually lifted.

Israel has already greatly restricted movement to help slow the outbreak, allowing people to leave their homes to buy food or other essential activities but this new measure would prohibit any movement on the streets for about 12 hours.

“Every family will sit down for Seder night on its own. Celebrate only with the immediate family that’s at home with you now,” he said.

Beginning Tuesday afternoon, Israel will ban movement between cities. From Wednesday evening until Thursday morning, Israelis will not be allowed to leave their homes.

Netanyahu said similar travel restrictions would be in place for the upcoming holidays of Easter and Ramadan later in April.

At the same time, he said “there are positive signs on the horizon” and preparations were already underway for a possible easing of movement restrictions after Passover.

Israel has reported nearly 9,000 cases of coronavirus and 57 deaths.

For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and even lead to death.

Churches have already been ordered to shut across Egypt to slow the spread of the deadly virus. Egypt has reported 1,173 cases and 78 fatalities so far.

Iran is facing the worst outbreak in the region. Iranian state TV reported Monday that the death toll there from the coronavirus rose by another 136 people, pushing total deaths to 3,739 amid 60,500 confirmed cases.