COVID-19: Bank Of England Announces £150bn Extra Cash Stimulus

In this file photo taken on June 17, 2020, mounted police officers patrol outside the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England in London June 17, 2020. PHOTO: Tolga Akmen / AFP

 

The Bank of England on Thursday unveiled an extra £150 billion in cash stimulus as it forecast a deeper coronavirus-induced recession for the UK and  England began a second lockdown.

The BoE, which held its benchmark interest rate at a record-low 0.1 percent, lifted its quantitative easing (QE) stimulus by the equivalent of $195 billion as it seeks to boost lending by retail banks and consequently economic growth.

The bank’s monetary policy committee voted “for the Bank of England to increase the target stock of purchased UK government bonds by an additional £150 billion, financed by the issuance of central bank reserves”, it said in a statement.

The statement made no reference to the possibility of negative interest rates, as some had speculated could be used as an additional stimulus tool.

The news came ahead of a statement from British finance minister Rishi Sunak who is reportedly set to announce another multi-billion-pound coronavirus support package, including another extension of his government’s furlough jobs scheme.

Thursday’s BoE announcement meanwhile took the central bank’s total QE stimulus amount to £895 billion.

The bank has now pumped out £450 billion under its QE programme since March when Covid-19 prompted Britain’s first coronavirus lockdown.

Prior to this, it had pumped hundreds of billions of pounds into the UK economy over the past decade in the wake of the global financial crisis and Brexit.

– ‘New lockdown’ –

England began Thursday a minimum of four weeks of stay-at-home restrictions, as the government seeks to stem a second wave of Covid-19 after similar action elsewhere in Europe.

The initial lockdown that lasted around three months until mid-June sparked Britain’s deepest recession on record.

“Since the committee’s previous meeting (in September), there has been a rapid rise in rates of Covid infection,” the BoE said in a statement announcing the outcome of Wednesday’s regular policy meeting.

“The outlook for the economy remains unusually uncertain,” it said.

“It depends on the evolution of the pandemic and measures taken to protect public health, as well as the nature of, and transition to, the new trading arrangements between the European Union and the United Kingdom” post Brexit.

“It also depends on the responses of households, businesses and financial markets to these developments,” the BoE added.

It forecast the economy would shrink by 11 percent this year, worse than prior guidance of a 9.5-percent contraction.

GDP was then set to rebound by 7.25 percent next year — but this was also down from the 9.0 percent increase given previously.

– ‘Extraordinary situation’ –

Under QE, the BoE purchases assets such as government and corporate bonds, with the aim of boosting investment and lending to stimulate economic activity.

BoE governor Andrew Bailey, speaking to reporters on a conference call, described Thursday’s action as a response to an “extraordinary” global health emergency.

“We’re not experts on what the measures should be on health, on national lockdown. We talk to experts,” Bailey said.

“What I would say, and I look at it from the point of view of economic policy, I think it’s very important that we take prompt, strong action.

“We are all aware that this is an extraordinary situation, I think it is therefore appropriate that we take this action,” he added.

AFP

Frustration And Resignation As Weary French Begin New Lockdown

Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine Set For Final Trial Stage After 'Promising' Results
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, a syringe is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Paris. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

An authorisation that needs to be filled out just to take a breath of air. Long traffic jams as Parisians tried to leave the French capital before it was too late. Pressure on supermarket shelves for key goods.

After enduring two months of lockdown between March and May in a bid to squeeze the coronavirus, there was a weary sense of deja-vu in France on Friday as people contemplated going through it all again for at least a month — and maybe even to Christmas and beyond.

The new lockdown added to an already grim mood in France after three attacks in recent weeks blamed on Islamist extremists, the latest the killing of three people inside a church in Nice on Thursday.

There are crucial differences to the spring this time, most crucially that children will be returning to school after the autumn break, rather than staying home as in the previous lockdown.

And while nonessential businesses are to close, some were still open on Friday.

At least four shops — a shoe store, a dry cleaners, a mobile phone store and a Nespresso boutique — welcomed clients at midday on a busy pedestrian street in the Passy neighbourhood of western Paris.

There was also a steady flow of traffic around central Paris, even if public transport was less clogged than usual, raising concern among medics over whether the public would take this round of the lockdown seriously.

“Crossing Paris this morning looks more like an ordinary day than the first day of a lockdown,” the director of Paris hospitals Martin Hirsch wrote on Twitter.

“Lots is at stake now if we are to avoid being overwhelmed.”

– ‘Tolerance of police’ –
Trains from the provinces back to Paris were busy after President Emmanuel Macron made clear that there would be a period of grace to allow families to return home after the autumn break.

 

Covid-19- vaccine
In this file photo taken on July 10, 2020 A photo shows vaccines in prefilled, single-use syringes before the inspection and packaging phase at the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi’s world distribution centre in Val de Reuil, France. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

But in the other direction, hundreds of kilometres of traffic jams formed in Paris late Thursday as worried residents of the capital sought to flee in the hours before the lockdown took effect.

The Sytadin traffic site said that there were over 700 kilometres of traffic jams in the Paris region late Thursday, when electronic signs on the Paris ring road bore grim warnings for drivers of had an hour to go before the next exit.

The train station in the northern city of Lille was bustling quietly in the morning as travellers hurried back to Paris. Police looked on but without making overt controls.

“I had planned for a long time to spend some days in Lille then the weekend in Paris,” said Serge, a 62-year-old pensioner who plans to return home to Avignon on Monday.

“I am counting on the tolerance of the police,” he said.

– ‘No hysteria’ –
Yet the reality remained that within a space of months France has gone from “confinement” (lockdown), to “deconfinement” as the measures were relaxed over the summer, to “reconfinement.”

As previously, the basic rules are simple and strict. People can go out only on essential business or for exercise, for no more than one hour and within a one-kilometre radius of their homes, Prime Minister Jean Castex said.

And like in spring, every movement outside needs to be justified by filling out an authorisation form, either by hand or online.

Worried social media users posted pictures of supermarket shelves empty of the essentials, but executives insisted there would be no shortages.

The president of the Intermarche chain, Thierry Cotillard, said his supermarkets had been busier than normal but denied there had been any “hysteria.”

Home entertainment and electrical goods giant Fnac-Darty said it was keeping stores open by benefitting from an exemption that allows people to buy goods for home-working.

People at its Paris store were buying more than just office chairs.

“I bought two pairs of headphones, for my mom and me,” said Fabrice Angelique, 18, at the multi-storey Fnac store near the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris.

“I am happy. We don’t have the choice, we are obliged to live, do our shopping and behave as if it is normal even if there are some safety measures,” he said.

According to a poll by Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting for France Info and daily Le Figaro, seven out of 10 in France are in favour of the new lockdown.

But some angry French took to the streets of Paris late Thursday for an unauthorised protest to condemn the new measures as overly drastic.

“We shouldn’t overdo it. From midnight tonight we must all be at home, it’s too much,” said one protester, who gave her name as Laura.

AFP

Paris Braces For Maximum COVID-19 Alert Level

People wearing face masks walk past a sign displaying sanitary rules on a market in Paris, on August 27, 2020, as face masks will become mandatory in the city. Ludovic MARIN / AFP
People wearing face masks walk past a sign displaying sanitary rules on a market in Paris, on August 27, 2020, as face masks will become mandatory in the city. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Paris was preparing on Sunday to be placed under maximum coronavirus alert as alarming Covid-19 infection numbers appeared to leave the French government little choice but to tighten restrictions in and around the capital.

Paris’s trademark bars and cafes are threatened with complete closure as early as Monday after Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that only improved Covid-19 infection rates could prevent such a step.

If recent trends were confirmed “we’ll have no choice”, he warned on Thursday, saying new restrictions would mean “no more family gatherings, no more evenings out, and a total closure of bars”.

But a reprieve looks unlikely after France reported a 16,972 new coronavirus cases on Saturday alone, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.

Figures from the regional health agency ARS show new coronavirus cases remaining above 250 per 100,000 people in Paris, a threshold triggering the maximum alert protocol which has already hit the southern cities Aix-en-Provence and Marseille and their surroundings, as well as the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe.

“There is no justification for denial,” said the ARS director for the Paris region, Aurelien Rousseau, on Sunday. “The numbers are what they are, and they are weighing heavily,” he tweeted.

– ‘We’re French, we love to drink’ –

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin acknowledged that the looming closure of bars and cafes would be “tough” for everyone concerned.

“We are French, we love to drink, to eat, to live, to smile and to kiss each other,” he told broadcasters LCI and Europe 1 on Sunday.

“But we’re also doing this because the people want us to,” he added.

BFM television on Sunday published a poll saying that 61 percent of people living in Paris and its suburbs were in favour of a complete closure of bars, which are currently authorised to remain open until 10 pm.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told reporters on Sunday that “it’s not a done deal, there is still work being done, we’re still talking”. But she also conceded that the health situation was “very serious”.

The government has said it will target primarily establishments that “serve alcoholic drinks without food”.

Restaurant owners are still hoping that they can dodge a similar fate, at least for now.

The health authorities are evaluating a proposal submitted by restaurants for voluntary restrictions — including registering the home addresses of their clients and limiting the number of people at each table — before submitting their recommendations to the government.

Other large French cities including Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Toulouse are also hovering near the maximum alert threshold and similar measures as in the capital could be in store for them, too.

Employer organisation UMIH, which represents cafes, bars, hotels, restaurants, brasseries and discos, has warned that 15 percent of France’s 220,000 establishments in the sector are threatened with bankruptcy because of virus restrictions, with up to 250,000 staff facing unemployment.

The government has said it will take every precaution necessary to avoid a new state of emergency that would require a generalised lockdown like the one imposed at the height of the outbreak, from mid-March to mid-May.

The country’s total death toll from Covid-19 is 32,198 after recording 49 more fatalities on Saturday.

AFP

Madrid Widens Restrictions, One Million People Now Under Partial Lockdown

 

 

A million Madrid residents were under partial lockdown Monday as the region moved to slow the spread of new infections, drawing fire from the Spanish government for not going far enough.

The city and the surrounding region is at the epicentre of a second wave of coronavirus that is sweeping Spain, which has claimed more than 31,000 lives and infected over 700,000 in the highest infection rate in the European Union.

Since midnight, the new measures impose mobility restrictions on another 167,000 people who can only leave their neighbourhoods for work, school or medical reasons. But they are not confined to their homes and can move freely within their district.

Police were conducting random checks to ensure compliance with the new rules, which now apply to nearly one in six of the region’s 6.6 million residents.

An initial confinement order affecting 850,000 people was rolled out a week ago, largely affecting working-class areas in the city’s southern suburbs where on Sunday hundreds turned out in protest over what they see as discrimination.

Since the central government ended its state of emergency on June 21, responsibility for public healthcare and managing the pandemic has been transferred to Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.

But the central government is deeply unhappy with the regional government’s handling of the crisis in Madrid, epicentre of the outbreak in Spain, urging its leaders to adopt more drastic measures and threatening to step in if they refuse.

“Working with the government, the region’s responsibility is to contain the expansion of Covid infections,” Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya told Antena 3 television on Monday.

Over the past week, Spain has registered the highest number of new cases within the EU with a rate of nearly 300 per 100,000 inhabitants — but in the Madrid region, the figure is currently more than 700 per 100,000.

AFP

Israel Tightens Second Lockdown Protocols As Virus Cases Surge

A lab technician tests blood samples of suspected Covid-19 patients at the microbiology laboratory of Barzilai Medical Centre in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on September 22, 2020. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

 

Israel toughened its coronavirus measures on Thursday as a second nationwide lockdown failed to bring down the world’s highest infection rate a week after it was imposed.

The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.

“Over the past two days, we’ve heard from experts that if we don’t take immediate and harsh measures, we’ll reach an abyss,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Wednesday, at the start of a cabinet meeting to thrash out the new measures.

The government’s latest move comes as Israel is poised to enter the second week of a three-week lockdown imposed last Friday, which included the closure of schools and restrictions on work and leisure.

Under the new measures set to be approved in parliament later Thursday, synagogues will only be allowed to open on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday which begins Sunday afternoon.

At other times, only outdoor prayer will be allowed with a maximum of 20 people attending. The same restrictions have been applied to demonstrations.

“To save the lives of Israel’s citizens we need to impose a full lockdown now for two weeks,” Netanyahu said.

“This is also necessary for the economy. Whoever thinks we can work with a raging pandemic, with death and infections rising, without it affecting the economy, is wrong.”

A decision on whether to close Ben Gurion international airport outside Tel Aviv would be made later on Thursday, the government said.

Israel has the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate as a proportion of its population, according to an AFP tally of the past fortnight.

More than 200,000 coronavirus cases have been recorded, with 1,335 deaths, out of a population of nine million.

– ‘Massive destruction’ –

Hagai Levine, chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, said Netanyahu’s rush to ease the lockdown set in place during the first wave caused the current crisis.

“Once the rates went lower, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the public to go and have a good time,” said Levine, an epidemiologist who is part of the country’s anti-coronavirus taskforce.

“This is a wrong concept. Dealing with the current pandemic is like a marathon, and in a marathon you need to keep pace all the time,” he said.

Levine also accused Netanyahu of basing his pandemic decisions on “political” rather than “professional reasoning”, which had a damaging effect.

“When there is no plan, no logic, the public loses its trust,” he said.

The health expert warned that allowing synagogues to open during Yom Kippur would cause the virus to spread on a large scale.

“We are going to have massive destruction,” he said.

Netanyahu has also faced fierce criticism from opposition politicians, who accuse him of tightening the rules to put an end to weeks of protests outside his Jerusalem residence.

Ayelet Shaked, a lawmaker with the far-right Yamina party, said the new rules were “destructive and unreasonable”.

“Because of the demonstrations, they’re pushing hundreds of thousands of people to unemployment and crushing the economy,” she said in a statement.

Shaked said she would push to change the measures when they come before a parliamentary committee for approval later on Thursday.

Israel’s health ministry registered 6,808 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, out of 54,364 tests processed.

Some hospitals have reached capacity and are having to turn people away, with some patients forced to wait for hours in ambulances, according to the emergency medical service Magen David Adom.

AFP

Partial COVID-19 Lockdown In Madrid As US Deaths Near 200,000

Commuters wearing face masks sit on a train at the Atocha Station in Madrid on April 13, 2020 as some companies were set to resume operations at the end of a two-weeks halt of all non-essential activity amid a national lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

A million people in and around the Spanish capital on Monday were under new “stay-at-home” orders to contain another coronavirus surge, as the US death toll neared 200,000.

But unlike other nations that are tightening curbs to battle outbreaks, India pressed ahead with its measures to kickstart its battered economy, reopening the Taj Mahal and some schools on Monday — despite having the second-highest caseload in the world.

The restrictions in Madrid will last for two weeks starting Monday, affecting people living mainly in densely populated, low-income neighbourhoods who will be allowed only to travel for essential reasons such as work, medical care or taking children to school.

On Sunday, people took to the streets in some of the affected districts in protest against the new measures.

They sported placards reading “No to a class-based lockdown” or “They’re destroying our district and now they’re locking us up”.

“We think that they are laughing at us a little bit,” said nurse Bethania Perez, as hundreds protested against the measure.

“We will still be able to go to work, and go into other areas that are not under lockdown, where we might be able to raise the infections and also still be vulnerable to infections in our own area.”

Authorities in Spain — among the worst-hit nations in the world — have insisted the step is necessary because virus cases in those districts were much higher than the national average.

Global coronavirus infections are rapidly approaching 31 million, with more than 958,000 deaths.

– ‘We have to get used to it’ –

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved most of New Zealand to its lowest virus alert setting on Monday, saying the country was edging towards eliminating Covid-19.

The Pacific nation has recorded just 25 deaths in a population of five million and has been widely praised for its virus response.

In India, however, infections are surging with tens of thousands of new infections being reported every day.

But with the economy reeling, the government has gradually eased what was once among the world’s strictest lockdowns — despite warnings from some experts about the virus spreading across the vast nation of 1.3 billion people.

“So many people lost their job during the lockdown. People have suffered a lot and it is time the country opens up fully,” said bank official Ayub Sheikh, 35, who was visiting the Taj Mahal with his wife and baby daughter.

“We are not afraid of the virus. If it has to infect us, it will… I don’t think it is going to go away soon. We have to get used to it now.”

In poorer, crisis-hit parts of the world, the pandemic has piled on even more suffering.

In Iraq tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims participated in the annual mourning ceremonies of Ashura despite the government urging citizens to not attend large gatherings.

“Iraq has been through so much misery — from war to torture to imprisonment to forced emigration and now the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sheikh Hassan Dhakeri, a cleric in the shrine city of Karbala.

– ‘The pand-Emmys’ –

The United States remains the hardest-hit nation in the world, with more than 6.8 million cases and deaths approaching 200,000.

The pandemic has unleashed vast destruction on the world’s biggest economy, with millions left jobless, and President Donald Trump facing intense criticism of his handling of the virus.

Trump has expressed confidence that a vaccine would be ready by October — a claim contradicted by his administration’s top health expert.

In the absence of a prophylactic, all public gatherings carry a serious transmission risk.

That worry impacted the biggest TV awards show in America on Sunday, as the Emmys ceremony was held in a mostly empty venue in Los Angeles — with host Jimmy Kimmel dubbing them “the pand-Emmys”.

The theatre was filled with cardboard cutouts of A-list celebrities, and around 130 nominees joined via video link. The awards were handed to the winners by presenters dressed in hazmat suits styled as tuxedos.

Kimmel signed off saying: “To all the winners tonight and all the nominees, I’ll see you guys at the sad Zoom after-party.”

AFP

Ozo Evicted From Big Brother Naija

 

Ozo has been evicted from the Big Brother Naija lockdown season.

He was the second housemate to be evicted on Sunday night after Tricky T.

During his time in the House, he won the Head of House position twice and his eloquence and level-headed personality quickly earned him the respect of not just several housemates but also fans.

His stay was, however, not without some doses of drama or controversy following a ‘situationship’ or love ‘triangle’ that saw him sometimes dominate the trends.

Speaking with Ebuka, he reiterated that the emotions he felt for fellow housemate, Nengi, were genuine and he already found everything he wanted in a woman.

The 28-year-old said he was not afraid to pursue what he felt for her even if some people may have described him as a “mumu”.

How Viewers Voted

 

Read Also: Tricky T Evicted From Big Brother Naija

Speaking of his plans going forward, he said he would love to continue his work in the area of sports development in Nigeria as well as talent identification and job creation for the youth.

He also gave a shout out to his family for their continuous love and support as well as the organisers of the show.

With just about a few days to the show’s finale, the suspense over who would make it to the finals and who would win the season has reached fever pitch.

The winner will go home with the grand prize of N85 million.


 

Watch this week’s showbiz recap.

Secondary Schools In Akwa Ibom To Resume September 28

Police Arrest 10 Suspects For Political Violence In Akwa Ibom
A map of Akwa Ibom, a state in south-south Nigeria.

 

After months of being shut down, public secondary schools in Akwa Ibom, are now set to resume on September 28.

This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong on Saturday.

According to the statement, private secondary schools have also been directed to commence the process for resumption from September 21.

“Primary schools are also to commence processes for the resumption of primary six pupils only, on 21st September, 2020 to prepare them for the common entrance (exit examinations).

Read Also: Lagos Govt Releases Academic Calendar For 2020/2021 Session

“These were among critical decisions taken at the meeting of the State Executive Council Friday evening,” Ememobong said.

“Additionally, the Akwa Ibom State University will commence the processes of resumption on 21st September 2020; College of Education, Afaha Nsit, is to reopen on 21st September 2020, while Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua will resume on October 5, 2020”.

As the schools resume, they are mandated to comply with the COVID-19 protocols.

The commissioner also noted that the state government has made face masks available for all pupils who are to write the common entrance examination.

Israel Imposes Three-Week Nationwide Coronavirus Lockdown

In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP.

 

Israel’s government announced Saturday it would impose a three-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to stem one of the world’s highest novel coronavirus infection rates after a surge in cases.

The lockdown order, set to go into effect on Friday, makes Israel the first developed economy to take such a drastic measure to curb a “second wave” of virus infections.

Israel had initially been widely praised for curbing the spread of the Covid-19 disease by imposing a stringent lockdown in March, but it is now second only to Bahrain for the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per capita, according to an AFP tally.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the government decision in a televised statement, saying the cabinet had agreed “a strict (lockdown) plan for three weeks, with an option that it will be extended”.

“Our goal is to stop the increase, to reduce the contagion,” which has crossed the threshold of 4,000 new cases a day, he added.

The lockdown is set to begin from 1100 GMT on Friday, just hours before the start of the Jewish New Year and the High Holidays, which also include the Day of Atonement and Sukkot.

The announcement comes despite pushback from part of the ultra-Orthodox contingent in government over enforcing a lockdown during the holidays.

Under the lockdown guidelines, still to be finalised, indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 20, meaning prayers at synagogues would be severely impacted.

Restaurants are set to be closed to on-site dining and movement will be limited to 500 metres (1,650 feet) from one’s home.

“I know these measures will exact a heavy price from all of us,” Netanyahu said.

“This is not the holiday time we’re used to, we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families.”

– ‘Injustice and disregard’ –

Earlier on Sunday, Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party resigned in protest of the lockdown’s timing, which he said was an affront to Israel’s Jews.

“It is an injustice and disregard for hundreds of thousands of citizens, ultra-Orthodox, religious and traditional,” who would seek to pray in synagogues and have family meals, Litzman said.

Despite early successes in stemming the virus spread, protests have broken out as cases have risen against Netanyahu and the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied again on Sunday to call for Netanyahu’s resignation over his alleged graft offences and failure to manage the Covid-19 crisis.

They blocked roads to Ben Gurion airport, from where Netanyahu was due to fly to the United States to attend the signing of agreements to normalise ties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Israelis angry with the government over the rise in cases have cited the rapid reopening of businesses, with some arguing insufficient financial measures forced people back to work prematurely.

Others have said the reopening of schools and the country’s increased testing capacity pushed up the number of positive cases.

Israel, with a population of nine million, has recorded 155,604 Covid-19 cases, including 1,119 deaths.

AFP

Israeli Minister Quits Over COVID-19 Lockdown Plans

Israeli police stand at a checkpoint in the religious Israeli city of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, amid measures put in place by Israeli authorities in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19, on September 8, 2020. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

 

An ultra-Orthodox minister in Israel’s government resigned Sunday over nationwide lockdown plans to tackle one of the world’s highest coronavirus rates that would affect religious practices over Jewish holidays.

Yaakov Litzman stood down as housing minister, protesting at measures that he said will prevent Jews from attending synagogues over the upcoming festivals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

“It is an injustice and disregard for hundreds of thousands of citizens, ultra-Orthodox, religious and traditional,” to impose the lockdown over the holidays, said Litzman, a former health minister.

According to an AFP tally, Israel is second only to Bahrain for the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate by population.

The surge in cases prompted Israel’s coronavirus cabinet to announce last week plans for a nationwide lockdown that will go into force ahead of the Jewish holidays, which start on September 18.

The broader coalition government met on Sunday to vote on the plans, which are expected to see all non-essential shops shut and schools closed across the country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he regretted Litzman’s resignation, but vowed to forge ahead with the new measures.

“We must move forward and make the decisions that are necessary for the state of Israel during the corona period,” he said at the start of the cabinet meeting.

The government is due to close or seriously limit presence in synagogues and other places of worship during the lockdown, expected to be imposed for an initial 14 days.

Israel had initially been widely praised for curbing the spread of coronavirus by imposing a strict lockdown in March.

Children returned to school in May and businesses including bars and restaurants were reopened, along with venues hosting weddings.

While foreign visitors are still banned and masks are obligatory, Israel has seen a spike in coronavirus cases in past weeks.

More than 153,000 cases have been registered with 1,108 deaths, out of a population of nine million.

The government has been blamed for the rapid reopening of businesses, with some arguing insufficient financial measures forced people back to work prematurely.

Others have blamed the reopening of schools but also the country’s increased testing capacity for pushing up the number of positive Covid-19 cases.

As part of efforts to manage the public health crisis, the government has divided cities and towns into four colour-coded categories — green, yellow, orange and red — based on infection rates.

Earlier this month, 40 “red” areas were put under curfew, with gatherings limited and schools shut.

AFP

Australia Extends Melbourne Lockdown Despite Drop In Cases

An ambulance is seen outside one of nine public housing estates locked down due to a spike in COVID-19 coronavirus numbers in Melbourne on July 6, 2020. – Australia will effectively seal off the state of Victoria from the rest of the country, authorities said on July 6, announcing unprecedented measures to tackle a worrying surge in coronavirus cases. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

 

Australian officials on Sunday extended a strict virus lockdown of the country’s second-biggest city by two weeks, saying new cases had not dropped enough to prevent another spike.

Melbourne residents were due to exit a harsh six-week lockdown next weekend but face continued restrictions for months to come, with Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews saying the current lockdown would remain in place until September 28.

“If we open up too fast then we have a very high likelihood that we are not really opening up at all — we are just beginning a third wave,” he told a press conference.

“And we will be back in and out of restrictions, coming in and out of lockdown, before the end of the year.”

Just 63 new cases and five deaths were recorded in Victoria on Sunday, after peaking above 700 at the height of the outbreak, but health officials are taking a cautious approach.

Hopes of a return to normality this month have been dashed, with an overnight curfew, restrictions on visitors to homes and a limit on travelling more than five kilometres (about three miles) set to remain in place until at least October 26.

Announcing the roadmap for the easing of restrictions, Andrews said that rushing to experience a “brief period of sunshine” would likely lead to the virus again spiralling out of control.

The toughest rules will be eased in Melbourne from September 13, with an overnight curfew beginning an hour later at 9:00 pm, daily exercise increased to two hours and small “social bubbles” created for people living alone.

Under the government’s plan, childcare centres will reopen and up to five people will be able to gather outdoors from the end of September — but only if cases fall below an average of 50 per day.

Rules for people living in regional and rural Victoria will be relaxed more quickly, due to small numbers of active cases in those areas.

The announcement comes a day after more than a dozen anti-lockdown protesters were arrested in Melbourne during clashes with police.

Hundreds attended the illegal gathering organised online by conspiracy theorists, labelling the government’s response to the pandemic overblown or an outright “scam”.

Australia has been relatively successful in containing the virus, with the country recording just over 26,000 cases and 753 deaths in a population of 25 million.

The vast majority were reported in Melbourne over the past two months, while other regions have rolled back restrictions after largely bringing the virus under control.

AFP

Police Arrest 17 Anti-Lockdown Protesters In Melbourne

Police arrest a protester at the Albert Park Lake in Melbourne on September 5, 2020, during an anti-lockdown rally to protest the state’s strict lockdown laws as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. William WEST / AFP

 

Over a dozen of anti-lockdown protesters were arrested Saturday in Melbourne, as those deliberately flouting stay-at-home orders clashed with Australian police.

Ignoring official warnings and public health orders, several hundred people gathered at an illegal protest — promoted by several virus-related conspiracy theory groups online — calling for an end to lockdown measures.

A huge police presence responded, arresting 17 as the crowd chanted “freedom” and “scam” towards lines of officers who repeatedly attempted to move people on.

Two protesters were seen raising their arms in a Nazi salute at officers and yelling “Heil Dan”, comparing the state of Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews to Adolf Hitler, while standing on the forecourt of the Shrine of Remembrance — a war memorial which partly commemorates Australians killed fighting in World War II.

Demonstrators moved to a nearby park before being surrounded by police and eventually dispersing.

Officers said they issued 160 fines for breaching health orders and were expecting to hand out more in the coming days.

Several attendees told AFP they were protesting the government’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 865,000 people around the world, labelling it overblown or an outright “scam”.

“We are in a city where the cure from Daniel Andrews is actually worse than what’s happening,” protester Fiona Kat said.

The “Freedom Day” events were largely promoted by several loosely-connected groups online that espouse anti-vaccination and virus-related conspiracy theories.

Rallies were also held around the country, with 14 people arrested at protests in Sydney and Byron Bay.

Despite Victoria’s second wave, Australia has dealt relatively well with the virus allowing the rest of the country to roll back restrictions.

The nation has recorded over 26,200 cases and 748 deaths in a population of 25 million.

Before the protest, Victorian premier Andrews told people to stay home and warned the gathering could jeopardise a path out of lockdown, which is expected to be outlined on Sunday.

“It is not safe, it is not smart, it is not lawful,” he told media.

“In fact, it is absolutely selfish.”