Authorities in Israel plan to ease coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions nationwide following a steady decline in the rate of daily infections. Beginning Oct. 18, the restriction requiring residents to remain within 1 km (0.6 miles) of their residences, except as otherwise specified by the government, will be lifted. Furthermore, businesses that do not serve customers in person, as well as nurseries, kindergartens, public parks, and beaches, will be permitted to reopen. Restaurants will be permitted to provide carry-out services. These restrictions will be lifted nationwide except for several virus hotspots, all predominately ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, wherein only nurseries and kindergartens will reopen. Restrictions shuttering schools and most businesses will remain in effect throughout the country until further notice. Gatherings remain limited to 20 people outdoors and 10 people indoors. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office clarified that the plan to ease restrictions will not be implemented if cases rise beyond 2,000 daily or if the basic reproduction number measuring disease transmission is higher than 0.8.
Restrictions on outgoing air travel at Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) were lifted Oct. 16 amid decreasing COVID-19 infection rates. Previously, only individuals who purchased an airplane ticket before 1400 Sept. 25 were permitted to leave the country; those who purchased a ticket after that point were barred from departing. All individuals are now permitted to board outgoing flights.
Israel's ban on entry by nonresident foreign nationals remains in effect. However, there are currently no restrictions on citizens and permanent residents returning to the country. 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. These countries are Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Rwanda, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay. 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.