Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews ignored Israel’s coronavirus lockdown on Sunday as they gathered for a top rabbi’s funeral in the streets of Jerusalem.
Violations by ultra-Orthodox Jews have been played up by rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in questioning the lockdown’s efficacy – and building opposition to the premier ahead of a March 23 election.
Netanyahu has promoted speedy vaccination of Israel’s most vulnerable cohorts and the lockdown as dual pathways to a possible reopening of the economy in February.
But a projected mid-January turnaround in curbing the pandemic did not transpire. Serious cases have surged among Israelis who have not yet been vaccinated. Officials blame this on mutating virus strains and on lockdown scofflaws.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz, one of Netanyahu’s centrist coalition partners, responded by pledging to oppose a proposed lockdown extension into the coming week.
The current lockdown expires on Sunday night.
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