Severity: Critical Alert
Exit/Entry: Israel to close non-essential stores and impose movement restrictions from 1400 Sept. 18 - Oct. 11 due to a surge in coronavirus activity.
Alert Begins 15 Sep 2020 11:50 PM UTC
Alert Expires 31 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
Following a surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, authorities in Israel plan to impose a nationwide lockdown at 1400 on Sept. 18 through at least Oct. 11. The start of the lockdown coincides with the holiday of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and will continue throughout the remainder of the Jewish High Holy Days. Israelis will be required to remain within 500 meters (547 yards) of their homes, except for travel to work and for essential needs. Schools, restaurants, hotels, gyms, cinemas, and shopping malls will close; however, supermarkets, pharmacies, and other stores providing essential services will remain open. Restaurants will be permitted to provide delivery services only. Private offices and businesses may continue to operate, permitted that they do not allow customers into their physical locations. Public sector offices will operate at reduced capacity. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings are limited to 20 people. Public transportation will be reduced to 50 percent capacity, with buses and trains running from 0500-2200. Intercity services will be suspended on Fridays and Saturdays.
Authorities have imposed a nightly 1900-0500 curfew in designated "red" towns - i.e. those assessed as having high COVID-19 infection rates - as part of the nation's efforts to combat an increase in cases. The directive, effective through Sept. 21, restricts movement into and out of the affected municipalities, with residents being required to remain within 500 meters (547 yards) of their homes. All non-essential businesses in such areas must close by 1900; schools will remain closed. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, with outdoor gatherings being capped at 20 people.
Israel's existing ban on entry by nonresident foreign nationals remains in force through at least Oct. 1. The nation'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. 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 destination 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.
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 have been 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.