Israel tightened its coronavirus measures on Thursday, as the second nationwide lockdown failed to cut the world’s highest infection rate a week after it was imposed, Agence France-Presse reported.

The new rules will shut down the vast majority of workplaces, shut down markets and limit prayers and demonstrations.

“Saving lives is our priority – we are living in a moment of national crisis,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised news conference late Thursday, justifying the decision to reinforce the restrictions.

“The State of Israel will overcome the epidemic and we will emerge stronger,” he added, without elaborating on all the measures taken by his government.

The move comes as Israel prepares to enter the second week of a three-week closure imposed last Friday, which included school closures and restrictions on work and leisure.

Under the new measures approved during the first reading by Parliament on Thursday, only “essential” work will be allowed from 2:00 p.m. local time (1100 GMT) on Friday, and synagogues will only be allowed to open their doors on Yom Kippur, a holiday. Jew starts Sunday afternoon.

Other times, outdoor prayers are only permitted for a maximum of 20 people. The same restrictions applied to the demonstrations.

The government said a decision to close Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv would be taken later on Thursday.

Netanyahu said earlier: “To save the lives of the citizens of Israel, we need to impose a complete lockdown now for two weeks.”

This is also necessary for the economy. Whoever thinks we can work with a raging pandemic, with high death and injury rates, without affecting the economy is wrong. “

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Israel has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the world per person, according to an AFP tally from the past two weeks – more than 200,000 infections were recorded out of a population of nine million.