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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency Thursday -- with a mandatory seven-day lockdown that could result in fines if broken -- in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The unprecedented and sweeping restrictions, which mandate that Israelis only leave their homes if it's "absolutely necessary," come as cases of coronavirus in Isreal spiked to 677 from 433 just a day before.
Netanyahu's new rules prohibit people from visiting parks, pools, beaches and museums and also mandate that they limit social interactions and work from home where possible.
"Essential" businesses, including supermarkets, pharmacies, and medical facilities will remain open, and workers who have to go to their offices will be allowed to do so.
"There has not been anything like this since the establishment of the state," Netanyahu said as he announced the measures at a press conference. "There has actually been no such thing like this in the last 100 years."
“It is not going to be easy; I am asking for your cooperation.”
The Health Ministry and the government said the new restrictions are necessary to control the spread of the virus and flatten the curve, as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise dramatically.
Netanyahu threatened a full shutdown just a day earlier after singling out Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community and “parts of the minorities,” referencing Arab-Israelis, who had not adhered to the government's strong warnings to stay indoors.
Officials from the Health Ministry said they expect to see the numbers continue to rise as more testing becomes available, according to reports by the Jerusalem Post.
Currently the Health Ministry is aiming to conduct about 2,200 tests daily, but hope to reach as many as 5,000 tests a day as more materials become available.
The Defense Ministry also announced it has purchased 2,500 ventilators to aid patients, and they are expected to arrive in Israel by mid-May.