Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Israel to impose localized lockdowns on towns with high COVID-19 infection rates from Sept. 7. List of affected areas to be announced.

Alert Begins 03 Sep 2020 09:28 PM UTC
Alert Expires 01 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel, transport, and business disruptions; heightened security

Beginning Sept. 7, authorities in Israel plan to impose localized lockdowns on designated “red” towns with high coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection rates as part of efforts to combat an increase in cases nationwide. Movement in and out of the affected areas will be restricted and residents will be required to remain within 500 meters of their homes. Most businesses and schools will close. The Ministry of Health stated that the complete details of the restrictions, including the finalized list of “red” towns, will be announced by Sept. 6. The areas currently defined as “red” include approximately 30 localities, comprised primarily of Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

Authorities previously extended the existing entry ban for nonresident foreign nationals through at least Oct. 1. Israel's flag carrier El Al Airlines (LY) has extended its suspension of regular passenger flights until at least Sept. 30 due to continued COVID-19 restrictions on passengers arriving from most countries. Cargo and emergency flights remain unaffected. The Ministry of Health has exempted Israeli citizens and residents returning from certain countries with low COVID-19 infection rates from the nation's mandatory 14-day quarantine beginning Aug. 16. The specific countries are Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia, and the UK. Israeli citizens and legal residents returning from any other destinations are subject to the quarantine requirement. Arriving travelers who cannot demonstrate that they can self-quarantine at home will be isolated at a government-established facility.

Gyms and dance studios remain closed. Restaurants are permitted to continue dine-in services but at reduced capacity. Government ministries have reduced their staff presence by 50 percent.

Authorities had been gradually easing restrictions as part of the nation's COVID-19 recovery plan. The following measures remain in effect:


  • The limit on indoor and outdoor gatherings has increased to 20 and 30 people, respectively. Previously, indoor gatherings were limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 20 people.


  • Weekend restrictions on business and leisure activities have been lifted.


  • Daytime trains are continuing to operate nationwide. Trains are limited to 500 passengers, and tickets must be reserved 48 hours before travel. Furthermore, protective face coverings and temperature checks are required for boarding. Nighttime train services remain suspended until further notice.


  • Places of worship are operating, though they must comply with government directives on capacity limits, use of protective face coverings, and social distancing during prayer services.


  • Public transportation may operate at full capacity between 0700-0830 and 1300-1500 daily. The measure does not apply to buses, which are limited to 20 passengers.


  • There is no more limit on how far residents may travel from their homes.


  • Schools, parks, and nature reserves are open.


The government reserves the authority to shut down any establishments that fail to comply with mandates to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as compulsory use of face coverings, daily temperature checks of employees, and regular sanitization of communal surfaces, among other requirements.

Authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
Israel's 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.

Back to the COVID-19 Risk Intelligence & Resource Center