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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A tightening of Israel’s third nationwide coronavirus lockdown is expected to cost the country’s economy as much as 3.5 billion shekels ($1.1 billion) a week, the central bank estimated on Wednesday.

© Reuters/RONEN ZVULUN An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a shuttered shop during Israel’s third national lockdown to fight coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Jerusalem’s Old City

New restrictions that will tighten a lockdown imposed on Dec. 27 will take effect at midnight between Thursday and Friday and last 14 days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the curbs as Israel’s final push to stop a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases while it presses ahead with a rapid vaccination drive, hoping to emerge from the crisis within weeks.

Israel’s vaccination campaign has reached nearly 15% of its 9 million population in about two weeks.

The central bank noted that Israel’s first two lockdowns, imposed in the spring and fall of 2020, had cost the economy 5.4 billion and 3.2 shekels a week respectively.

Israel’s economy is expected to have contracted 3.7% in 2020, with double digit unemployment, but rebound in 2021.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Maayan Lubell)

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