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Israel brings in overnight curfews but stops short of full lockdowns

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced overnight curfews on some 40 cities and towns hit hard by the coronavirus.

He backed away from reported calls for full lockdowns after an uproar by powerful religious politicians.

The measures were announced late Sunday after hours of consultations with decision-makers. 

Benny Gantz (right), Israel's Alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister, gives a statement outside the city hall of Bnei Barak regarding a lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, on Sunday

Benny Gantz (right), Israel's Alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister, gives a statement outside the city hall of Bnei Barak regarding a lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, on Sunday 

The government has been forced to take new action after failing to contain an outbreak. 

The country passed the milestone of 1,000 novel coronavirus deaths this weekend after the toll tripled over the summer, fuelling regular protests against Netanyahu's management of the health crisis and associated economic downturn. 

Israel's hospitals are being overwhelmed by the increasing number of Covid-19 patients in a serious condition, according to national media reports. 

There are fears the healthcare system will become further strained if the pandemic continues to escalate into the winter months.  

The curfews will go into effect Monday at 7pm and will be in effect until 5am It was not known how long they will remain in place.

The government's ministerial committee on coronavirus decided to impose 'a nightly closure' on 40 cities and towns with the highest infection rates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

He said 'educational institutions' would be closed with the exception of special education centres, and gatherings limited to 10 people in closed spaces and 20 outdoors.

'I know these limitations are not easy, but in the current situation, there's no way to avoid them,' Netanyahu said of the restrictions set to begin on Monday.  

It comes following an outcry from ultra-Orthodox Jews who claimed their communities were being disproportionately targeted.   

'I know these limitations are not easy, but in the current situation, there's no way to avoid them,' Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the restrictions set to begin on Monday (File image)

'I know these limitations are not easy, but in the current situation, there's no way to avoid them,' Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the restrictions set to begin on Monday (File image)

Ronni Gamzu, who was appointed National Coronavirus Project Coordinator, highlighted a need in particular for vigilance in ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, where he said case numbers have been notably

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