Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Israel ease COVID-19-related restrictions as of May 11; individuals returning from abroad allows to self-quarantine at home.

This alert affects Israel

This alert began 11 May 2020 07:12 GMT and is scheduled to expire 25 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Israeli authorities announced further measures easing restrictions related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) due to the country's declining rate of new cases. Beginning May 11, authorities will allow individuals returning from abroad to self-isolate at home for two weeks instead of state-run facilities, provided their accommodation meets requirements for self-isolation. Additionally, the government is lifting the 1800-0300 curfew on shops and businesses in Muslim-majority towns outside COVID-19 hotspot areas beginning May 11. Officials will also allow entry to parks and nature reserves from May 11.

El Al (LY) Airlines - the flag carrier of Israel - previously extended its suspension of all passenger flights to and from Israel until at least May 30. El Al officials stated that the company would continue to operate emergency and cargo flights. The airline initially suspended flights from March 27 as part of Israel's efforts to combat COVID-19.

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:

  • Kindergartens reopened May 10.
  • From May 7, 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 permitted to reopen from May 7, 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 are 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.

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