Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Israeli authorities plan to ease coronavirus restrictions, allow some businesses to reopen from April 19 amid a decline in infection rates.

This alert affects Israel

This alert began 18 Apr 2020 23:22 GMT and is scheduled to expire 03 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least May 3
  • Impact: Travel, transport, and business disruptions; heightened security

Summary
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced plans to some of his country's existing restrictions related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) beginning April 19. The announcement follows a reported decline in nationwide infection rates over the past two weeks. Under the prime minister's plan, the government will reassess the situation in two weeks and decide whether to continue easing restrictions or to re-impose them depending on the evolution of COVID-19 disease activity. The plan includes the following measures and is still subject to cabinet approval:

  • Businesses will be permitted to increase their in-person workforce from 15 percent to 30 percent. Some designated businesses will be allowed to return a greater percentage of their employees to work subject to certain restrictions.
  • The government will introduce 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 may 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 will remain closed.
  • Public transportation will gradually increase operations nationwide.
  • Childcare and child education programs, religious services, and other social activities will gradually resume, with certain restrictions at least initially.


It is as yet unclear what impact the plan may have on the quarantine authorities have imposed on the Israeli-Arab towns of Deir al-Asad and al-Baneh, which is slated to continue through April 25. As of April 18, entry to and exit from the towns remain prohibited, except for permit holders and for humanitarian reasons. 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 or medical supplies.

Movement restrictions are also still in place in several of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods through at least April 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.

Previous COVID-related restrictions that remain in effect nationwide in Israel 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 will continue to operate emergency and cargo flights.
  • All border crossings with Jordan and Egypt are closed to passenger travel.
  • Residents are required to stay within 100 meters (328 feet) 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 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.
  • 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 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