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Israel stops easing coronavirus restrictions after spike

Shoppers wearing protective masks against the novel coronavirus, walk through the Shuk HaCarmel, or the Carmel market, in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 7, 2020 [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Shoppers wearing protective masks against the novel coronavirus in Tel Aviv on 7 May 2020 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel will stop easing coronavirus restrictions after a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases, Reuters reported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying 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.

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