Quarantine for All Travellers to Israel

On Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu announced that all travellers entering Israel will be required to undergo a 14-day period of quarantine as part of measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. He said this was essential to protect public safety and will last for two weeks.

That decision came after two days of difficult discussions - Israel’s Prime Minister did not rush to accept the Health Ministry’s proposal to impose this mandatory quarantine on all people entering Israel, foreigners and citizens alike.

Benjamin Netanyahu announces quarantine for travellersBenjamin Netanyahu announces quarantine for travellers (YouTube screenshot)

It means that all non-Israelis will have to prove that they have somewhere to stay while quarantined – otherwise they will be denied entry into the country.

Israel’s Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, said the measure would be effective immediately for all returning Israelis; but will apply to foreign citizens from Thursday 12th March.

As a result of a huge drop in airline passengers and many cancelled flights, Ben Gurion Airport will close half of its main international terminal and reduce its staffing by 70 percent.

Two out of five check-in areas in Terminal 3 will be closed immediately, with the staff union describing it as a shift to the “Yom Kippur footing.”

Before this latest announcement, the city of Bethlehem was put into isolation, making it seem deserted on Friday 6th March. Initially, seven people there were diagnosed with the new coronavirus, but that number quickly rose to 19.

Some residents are critical of being subject to stricter measures than cities inside Israel, with one hotel owner asking why nobody thought of putting those cities into isolation.

The last remaining tourists were evacuated from Bethlehem by Saturday, with residents reporting a significant decline in activity since Thursday evening. Given the number of tourists who usually visit the city, this measure will have a huge impact and casts doubt upon Easter celebrations.

UPDATE 11th March

Idle planes at Ben Gurion airportIdle planes at Ben Gurion airport (photo: Jack Guez /AFP)

As a further sign of the stress that the airline industry now faces, El Al has decided to place 3,300 employees on unpaid leave - including 550 of its pilots. It seems that this will increase the total number asked to take unpaid leave to between 4,500 and 5,000 out of 6,400 El Al staff.