Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Israeli flag carrier El Al Airlines extends suspension of all passenger flights to May 2 due to COVID-19 activity.

This alert affects Israel

This alert began 01 Apr 2020 23:09 GMT and is scheduled to expire 03 May 2020 03:59 GMT.

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

Summary
On April 1, Israel's national flag carrier El Al (LY) Airlines extended suspension of all passenger flights to May 2. LY had originally suspended passenger flights to and from Israel through April 4. El Al officials have stated that the company will continue to operate emergency and cargo flights.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced a series of new preventive restrictions that entered into force late March 30 as part of his country's efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The new measures ban public gatherings of more than two people; the ban does not apply to members of the same family or individuals working on combating the spread of COVID-19. Authorities have also stated that prayers in public will no longer be permitted and urged residents to observe religious holidays - including Passover, Easter, and Ramadan - by themselves and without their extended families and friends. Any essential business that does not have sufficient space to meet social distancing requirements must reduce its workforce by an additional 15 percent beyond the already mandated 30-percent reduction. Employers are also required to ensure employees remain 2 meters (6 feet) apart from each other when interacting. Weddings cannot have any guests, while only 20 people may attend funeral services; up to 10 people may attend a circumcision ceremony. The restrictions will remain in effect until further notice.

Previously enacted restrictions in Israel include:

  • Residents required to stay within 100 meters (328 feet) of their homes, unless traveling to/from work in vital sectors, purchasing necessities such as food and medicine, seeking medical assistance, or traveling for other specified extenuating circumstances;
  • Suspension of rail services nationwide and a reduction in other forms of public transport;
  • Employers required to perform health screenings on workers and other persons entering their businesses;
  • Closure of all nonessential businesses;
  • Closure of synagogues;
  • Prohibition on restaurant takeout; delivery services may continue.


Netanyahu has previously stated that, absent a significant reduction in the spread of COVID-19 in Israel, the country may implement a full lockdown.

Israel has also imposed a series of other preventative measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All foreigners have been barred from entering Israel until further notice starting March 18. Israeli citizens and permanent residents are still allowed entry into the country. All border crossings with Jordan and Egypt have been closed to passenger travel. Shops, cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues have been closed nationwide since March 15 for a period of at least five weeks. The closure order does not affect grocery stores, fuel stations, and pharmacies. Schools and universities nationwide are also closed until further notice.

Background and Analysis
Israel's travel restrictions and preventive measures correspond with similar 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/he/departments/ministry_of_health

El Al Airlines: www.elal.com

World Health Organisation: www.who.int