Severity: Critical Alert
Entry/Exit: El Al Airlines extends its suspension of passenger flights to and from Israel until May 30 due to COVID-19 activity.
This alert affects Israel
This alert began 05 May 2020 17:49 GMT and is scheduled to expire 05 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.
- Incident: Restrictions
- Location(s): Nationwide (map)
- Time Frame: Indefinite
- Impact: Travel, transport, and business disruptions, heightened security
El Al (LY) Airlines - the flag carrier of Israel - has extended its suspension of all passenger flights to and from Israel until at least May 30. El Al officials have stated that the company will continue to operate emergency and cargo flights. The airline initially suspended flights from March 27 as part of Israel's efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced May 4 that Israel will further ease restrictions related to COVID-19 due to the country's declining rate of new cases. Beginning May 7, residents will be permitted to leave their homes without limitations on distance and will be allowed to visit family members, including elderly relatives, while adhering to social distancing measures. Previously, residents were required to remain within 100 meters (110 yards) of their homes unless partaking in permitted activities such as traveling to/from work in approved sectors, purchasing necessities such as food and medicine, or seeking medical assistance. Malls and outdoor markets will be permitted to reopen from May 7, and public gatherings of up to 20 people will be allowed in open spaces. Up to 50 people will be permitted to attend weddings and funerals, so long as the ceremonies are held in open spaces. Beginning May 10, kindergartens will be permitted to reopen. Universities and colleges are set to reopen June 14.
Netanyahu stated that in order for Israel to continue easing restrictions, the number of new cases needs to remain under 100 per day outside COVID-19 hotspots, the doubling rate of new cases needs to be fewer than 10 days, and the number of patients in serious condition must remain under 250. If these conditions are not met, then the government may reimpose restrictions.
Israeli authorities previously eased some of the country's other COVID-19 restrictions. The following measures were implemented:
- Standalone stores, hairdressers, and beauty salons were allowed to reopen from April 26. They must, however, adhere to specific health guidelines, including the use of protective gear and the enforcement of social distancing.
- Restaurants are permitted to sell food for carry-out, provided there is a barrier between the cashier and customers.
- Businesses are allowed to increase their in-person workforce from 15 percent to 30 percent. Some designated businesses were allowed to return a higher percentage of their employees to work, subject to certain restrictions.
- The government introduced a certification scheme outlining new requirements for establishments that want to remain open, including mandatory face masks, daily temperature checks of employees, and regular sterilization of communal surfaces. Authorities may shut down businesses that fail to comply.
- Stores selling electrical goods, housewares, optical ware, and similar items are allowed to reopen, subject to restrictions on the number of customers permitted inside at any given time and other protective measures for employees.
- Public transportation has begun gradually increasing operations nationwide.
- Childcare and child education programs, religious services, and other social activities are resuming gradually, with certain restrictions at least initially.
COVID-19-related restrictions that remain in effect nationwide include:
- Authorities have barred all foreigners from entering Israel until further notice since March 18.
- All border crossings with Jordan and Egypt remain closed to passenger travel.
- Wearing masks in public is mandatory.
Background and Analysis
Israel's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.