Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Israel further ease COVID-19 restrictions; places of worship to reopen nationwide as of May 20.

This alert affects Israel

This alert began 20 May 2020 03:37 GMT and is scheduled to expire 03 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel, transport, and business disruptions; heightened security

Israeli authorities plan to reopen places of worship nationwide from May 20 as part of measures to ease restrictions related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The institutions are allowed to accommodate a maximum of 50 worshippers, who must wear masks and maintain a distance of at least two meters from each other during prayer services. Additionally, public transportation will resume at full capacity between 0700-0830 and 1300-1500.

The government also temporarily rescinded the rule of wearing face masks in public places and schools due to an ongoing heatwave, until May 22. Officials also announced that restaurants, clubs, hotels, and swimming pools across the country would reopen May 27.

The following measures are also in effect as part of Israel's COVID-19 recovery plan:

  • Weekend public bus services resumed May 15, and state-owned rail carrier Israel Railways resumed intercity, commuter, and freight rail operations May 17.
  • Authorities are allowing individuals returning from abroad to self-isolate at home for two weeks instead of at state-run facilities, provided their accommodations meet self-isolation requirements.
  • Authorities lifted the 1800-0300 curfew on shops and businesses in Muslim-majority towns outside COVID-19 hotspot areas.
  • Parks and nature reserves have reopened.
  • Kindergartens reopened May 10.
  • Residents are permitted to leave their homes without limitations on distance and are allowed to visit family members, including elderly relatives while adhering to social distancing measures.
  • Malls and outdoor markets are open, and public gatherings of up to 20 people are allowed in open spaces. Up to 50 people are permitted to attend weddings and funerals, so long as the ceremonies are held in open spaces.
  • Standalone stores, hairdressers, and beauty salons reopened April 26. However, they must 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 facemasks, 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.

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.
  • El Al (LY) Airlines extended its suspension of all passenger flights to and from Israel until at least May 30. Emergency and cargo flights continue to operate.

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.

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