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Israeli leader announces lockdown over Passover holiday

By AP

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An ultra-Orthodox Jew wears an improvised protective face mask as he pulls a supermarket cart on a mainly deserted street because of the government’s measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Bnei Brak, a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, April 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

(AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday a complete lockdown over the upcoming Passover holiday to control the country’s coronavirus outbreak, but offered citizens some hope by saying he expects to lift widespread restrictions after the week-long festival.

Netanyahu’s announcement came as leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church in neighbouring Egypt said they were suspending Easter celebrations because of the coronavirus.

Israel has already greatly restricted movement to help slow the outbreak, allowing people to leave their homes to buy food or other essential activities.

In a nationally televised address, Netanyahu said the government was further restricting movement for Passover, which begins Wednesday evening with a festive meal known as the “Seder.”

“Every family will sit down for Seder night on its own. Celebrate only with the immediate family that’s at home with you now,” he said.

Beginning Tuesday afternoon, Israel will ban movement between cities. From Wednesday evening until Thursday morning, Israelis will not be allowed to leave their homes.

Netanyahu said similar travel restrictions would be in place for the upcoming holidays of Easter and Ramadan later in April.

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