Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Israeli authorities ease additional coronavirus restrictions, order five-day closure of several disease hotspots effective April 26.

This alert affects Israel

This alert began 24 Apr 2020 20:10 GMT and is scheduled to expire 24 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
Israeli authorities have announced that the country's existing restrictions related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be eased further effective April 26. Standalone stores, hairdressers, and beauty salons will be allowed to reopen but must adhere to specific health guidelines, including the use of protective gear and the enforcement of social distancing. Shopping malls and open-air markets will remain closed. Restaurants will be permitted to sell food for carry-out provided a barrier is placed between the cashier and customers. The current restriction barring residents from traveling more than 100 meters (110 yards) from their homes for nonessential purposes will remain in effect through the nation's April 29 Independence Day holiday.

Israeli authorities also ordered that several neighborhoods in the towns of Beit Shemesh and Netivot close for five days starting 0600 April 26. The specific affected areas are the Nahala v'Menuha and Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet in Beit Shemesh, and the Netaim and Shalom Boinich neighborhoods in Netivot, which have become COVID-19 hotspots in recent weeks. The closure area in Netivot will also include Hazani, Tzaban, Hatzalah, Brosh, Bilu, and Gershonowitz streets. Entry to and exit from these areas will be prohibited. Authorities will provide residents with food and other necessities.

Israeli authorities previously approved a nationwide curfew for the country's Independence Day on April 29 and additional restrictions for the month of Ramadan (April 23-May 24). Authorities will impose a curfew for Independence Day from 1700 April 28-2000 April 29. Intercity travel will be prohibited during this period, and residents will only be permitted to leave their homes for essential purposes, such as purchasing necessities or seeking medical assistance. Furthermore, public transportation will be suspended. During Ramadan, all shops in Muslim-majority towns, except for pharmacies, will close from 1800-0300. The measure will be in effect until May 3.

Israeli authorities previously eased some of the country's existing COVID-19 restrictions beginning April 19. The following measures were implemented:

  • Businesses have been permitted to increase their in-person workforce from 15 percent to 30 percent. Some designated businesses were allowed to return a greater percentage of their employees to work subject to certain restrictions.
  • The government introduced a certification scheme outlining new requirements that establishments must adhere to in order to remain open, including mandatory face masks, daily temperature checks of employees, and regular sterilization of communal surfaces. Businesses found not to be in compliance may be shut down.
  • Stores selling electrical goods, housewares, optical ware, and similar items have been allowed to reopen, subject to restrictions on the number of customers allowed inside at any given time and other protective measures for employees. Shopping malls, dine-in restaurants, beauty salons, and clothing stores remain closed.
  • 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.


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

  • Authorities have been barring all foreigners 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 continues to operate emergency and cargo flights.
  • All border crossings with Jordan and Egypt remain closed to passenger travel.
  • Residents are required to stay 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.
  • Schools, universities, and synagogues remain closed until further notice.
  • Weddings cannot have any guests, while only 20 people may attend funeral services; up to 10 people may attend a circumcision ceremony.
  • 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.

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 Organization: www.who.int