Middle East

Israel marks its Independence Day under coronavirus lockdown

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis celebrated their Independence Day at home Wednesday amid a nationwide lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The national holiday, which honors the creation of Israel after the end of the British Mandate in 1948, is usually a festive occasion, with people heading to the beach, hosting barbecues and watching fireworks.

This year, however, the government has banned public gatherings and ordered people to remain within 100 meters (yards) of their homes unless they require medicine or have other vital needs. Public transportation has been shut down and police are manning roadblocks to prevent travel.

The Israeli air force devoted its annual fly-by to health workers, with planes crisscrossing the nation and performing aerial acrobatics over hospitals and medical centers. Other events were to be broadcast online, with no live audience.

Israel has reported more than 15,700 cases and at least 210 deaths from the coronavirus. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, but can cause severe illness or death, particularly in elderly patients and those with underlying health problems.

Israel imposed sweeping restrictions on movement and ordered most businesses to close in mid-March. It has recently begun easing those restrictions as the rate of new infections appears to have stabilized.

The Independence Day lockdown is set to be lifted Wednesday night. Most shops will then be allowed to reopen, provided they meet regulations on social distancing and hygiene. People are required to wear masks in public places.


Image: Israeli Air Force aerobatic team flies in formation during celebrations for Israel’s 72nd Independence Day, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. The Israeli government announced a complete lockdown over their Independence Day to control the country’s coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

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