Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Israel adjusts movement restrictions in select Jerusalem neighborhoods and Bnei Brak starting April 16 due to COVID-19 activity.

This alert affects Israel

This alert began 16 Apr 2020 21:44 GMT and is scheduled to expire 16 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-related restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least April 20
  • Impact: Travel, transport, and business disruptions; heightened security

Summary
Israeli authorities have extended movement restrictions in several of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods through April 19 as part of their effort to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The extension specifically applies to the Shmuel HaNavi, Neven Yaacov, Ramat Shlomo, Romema, Har Nof, Mea Shearim, Makor Baruch, and Bocharim neighborhoods, as well as some surrounding areas. Residents of these areas are required to stay at home and may only leave their residences to perform essential tasks, such as shopping for groceries, seeking medical care, and working in vital sectors.

Additionally, authorities have eased lockdown restrictions on Bnei Brak - a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish town just east of Tel Aviv - through April 20. Police have removed roadblocks to permit cars to enter and exit the area, though public transportation remains suspended. Previously, residents were only permitted to travel beyond the town limits to perform essential tasks; it remains unclear if this restriction has been lifted.

COVID-19-related restrictions that remain in effect nationwide in Israel include:

  • All foreigners have been barred from entering Israel until further notice since March 18.
  • Israel's national flag carrier, El Al (LY) Airlines, has suspended all passenger flights until at least May 2. The company will continue to operate emergency and cargo flights.
  • All border crossings with Jordan and Egypt are closed to passenger travel.
  • Nonessential businesses, including shops, cafes, and entertainment venues, have been ordered closed for a period of at least five weeks from March 15.
  • Residents are required to stay within 100 meters (328 feet) of their homes, unless traveling to/from work in vital sectors, purchasing necessities such as food and medicine, seeking medical assistance, or traveling for other specified extenuating circumstances.
  • Rail services are suspended nationwide, and other forms of public transport have been reduced.
  • Employers are required to perform health screenings on workers and other persons entering their businesses. Any essential business that does not have sufficient space to meet social distancing requirements must reduce its workforce by an additional 15 percent beyond the already mandated 30-percent reduction. Employers are also required to ensure employees remain 2 meters (6 feet) apart when interacting.
  • Schools, universities, and synagogues are closed until further notice.
  • A prohibition on restaurant takeout is in place; delivery services may continue.
  • Public gatherings of more than two people are banned; the ban does not apply to members of the same family or individuals working on combating the spread of COVID-19.
  • Prayers in public are prohibited.
  • Weddings cannot have any guests, while only 20 people may attend funeral services; up to 10 people may attend a circumcision ceremony.
  • Authorities have introduced legislation making the wearing of masks in public mandatory.
  • All incoming flights have been suspended since April 11. The suspension will continue until Home Front Command obtains the requisite legal permission to transfer arriving travelers to designated facilities to wait out their 14-day quarantine.



Background and Analysis
Israel's travel restrictions and preventive measures correspond with similar 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.

Advice
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.

Resources
Israel Government Coronavirus Response Website (in Hebrew): www.gov.il

Israel Ministry of Health (in Hebrew): www.gov.il

El Al Airlines: www.elal.com

World Health Organisation: www.who.int