Thousands of Israelis protested across the country on Saturday, flouting a new law meant to curb anti-government demonstrations during a coronavirus lockdown.

The street protests, more than a week after the Israeli parliament approved an edict to limit the scope of such demonstrations, kept pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and over allegations of corruption, which he denies.

The new law bans Israelis from holding demonstrations more than 1 km (about half a mile) from their homes and forces stricter social distancing, a measure the government said was aimed at curbing COVID-19 infections. Critics have called it a blow to freedom of speech.

Most protests on Saturday night were small and scattered throughout the country, though a crowd of thousands gathered in Tel Aviv, and hundreds in Jerusalem. A small number of protesters scuffled with police after trying to march in city streets.

Israel has shut down much of its economy and instructed people to stay within a kilometre of their homes whenever possible in an effort to contain a second-wave surge in coronavirus infections.