Coronavirus: Israel passes legislation to ban mass protests throughout lockdown

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The Israeli parliament has given the government the power to ban mass protests during the country’s second nationwide lockdown on the country’s coronavirus.

Protesters are restricted to groups of up to 20 people and must be within 1 km of their homes.

The bill should have been part of a series of measures that were passed on Friday.

However, the government struggled to get the votes it needed after critics accused it of trying to quell protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For weeks, thousands of people have been gathering outside his official residence in Jerusalem to demand his resignation over allegations of corruption and his handling of the pandemic. Mr. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

Media signatureHow does a second ban feel?

The protests continued despite a dramatic Covid-19 resurgence.

Israel currently has the highest per capita infection rate in the world, with the daily number of new cases exceeding 8,000 over the past week despite the second lockdown.

More than 237,000 cases and 1,528 deaths have been reported in the country of nine million people since the pandemic began.

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The law passed by the Knesset early Wednesday gives ministers the power to declare a “special state of emergency” related to the coronavirus pandemic for renewable one-week periods.

During this time, people are not allowed to be more than 1 km from their homes to participate in a protest – a limit already in place for travel other than for essential purposes such as buying food or medicine.

Protesters will also be restricted to “capsules” of no more than 20 people.

Image rightsReutersImage descriptionA parking lot in Haifa has been converted into a station for treating coronavirus patients

Mr. Netanyahu has labeled the protests against his tenure as “coronavirus incubators” without providing evidence to support the claim.

The protest organizers called the vote on the new powers an “execution ceremony for democracy”.

Yair Golan of the left-wing Meretz party has warned of the restrictions, “the demonstrations will not be stopped”. “The anger that grows in the streets will find its way,” he said.

BBC Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman says tensions over Israel’s democratic and religious nature have come to the fore. with a heated debate about restrictions on protest and prayer.

A top scholar warned that allowing services in synagogues on Yom Kippur – the holiest day of Judaism, which fell on Monday – risked “mass transmission”; There have been reports of widespread rule violations in some ultra-Orthodox areas of Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu also warned Tuesday that the second lockdown was unlikely to end in mid-October after the Jewish festival of Sukkot.

“The payment [of infected] climb, they will climb even more. The lockdown will take no less than a month and potentially a lot more time, “he said.

He also stressed that the decision to relax restrictions would not be “based on a time frame, but on the number of infected and other factors”.

The Israeli government was commended in the spring for taking early action that contained the spread of Covid-19 and resulted in a very low death rate compared to other countries. However, after the initial lockdown was relaxed in May, there was widespread criticism of the loss of control.

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