June 8, 2020 / 2:17 PM / a month ago

Israel stops easing COVID-19 restrictions after spike in new cases

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a protective mask due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 7, 2020. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will stop easing coronavirus restrictions after a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

“There is a very sharp rise in illness,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “The first thing we’ve decided to do is put the brakes on it. We’ve stopped all the easings we were going to put in place in the next few days.”

Israel could already be facing a doubling of the infection rate within 10 days, Netanyahu said. He urged the public to keep social distancing, wear face masks and maintain good hygiene.

Netanyahu did not detail what planned relaxations had been shelved but Israeli media reported that they included reopening the national rail service, theatres and cinemas.

Israel has reported a total of 17,863 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 298 deaths. After enacting restrictions early in the outbreak, the government eased its lockdown in mid-April and gradually allowed schools, businesses, shopping malls, beaches, shops and restaurants to reopen.

Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Giles Elgood

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