Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu
AFP

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, announced on Thursday that the country will be entering its third national lockdown, in an effort to cut the rise in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

Once the cabinet approves the imposition of the third lockdown, the curbs will come into effect from December 27 (Sunday) evening and last for two weeks (14 days).

During the lockdown, citizens of Israel will be required to not exit their residences, except for more than one kilometre or so. Businesses are also required to remain closed for the lockdown duration.

However, there will be exceptions for those who have to travel for vaccination purposes. Besides, schools for certain age groups will remain functional.

The announcement comes days after Israel began vaccinations against COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said that the country has further tightened restrictions on incoming air travel in response to the new strain of the coronavirus.

He said that Israel will not allow foreign nationals to enter the country, and any Israelis who return from abroad will go into quarantine at state-designated hotels.

Israel has already barred most foreign visitors since the start of the pandemic, but made exceptions for certain groups like religious seminary students. Israeli officials say almost all loopholes will now be closed.

Israel was also among the countries which recently suspended flights from South Africa after a coronavirus variant was discovered in the country. The ban was introduced in an effort to prevent the spread of the new strain currently termed 501.V2 Variant.

This new variant of the virus was discovered through routine genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 performed by a network of laboratories around the country (Network for Genomic Surveillance South Africa, (NGS-SA), according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a national public health institute of South Africa.

The new variant has been identified in almost 200 samples collected from over 50 different health facilities in Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The new variant is different from the others that were circulating in South Africa because it has multiple mutations (changes) in the spike protein.

A number of countries have also added Britain to their list of banned flights following the discovery of a new mutant variant.

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