Coronavirus in Israel: Quarantine Ordered for Arrivals From Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Austria

Israel has 15 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus ■ 60,000-70,000 Israelis will go into quarantine, Population Authority assesses ■ Authorities ban gatherings of more than 5,000 people

Ido Efrati
Bar Peleg
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A paramedic outside a special polling station for quarantined Israelis in Ashkelon, March 2, 2020.
A paramedic outside a special polling station for quarantined Israelis in Ashkelon, March 2, 2020.Credit: AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS
Ido Efrati
Bar Peleg

>> For the latest coronavirus updates from Israel and the West Bank - click here 

As the novel coronavirus continues to rattle the world, Israel's Health Ministry issued new instructions and warnings to both citizens and visitors to the country. 

■ All travelers returning from Germany, Spain, France, Switzerland and Austria are ordered to go into a 14-day quarantine, effective immediately 

■ Gatherings of more than 5,000 people are forbidden 

■ 15 Israelis have so far tested positive for coronavirus, known as COVID-19; thousands have been placed in isolation

■ Israeli teen who was diagnosed as ill with the virus on Wednesday attended a soccer game in Tel Aviv on Monday, sending 70 of fans who attended the match into quarantine

Out of the 15 cases of sick Israelis, eight seem to have contracted the illness in Italy, and four in Israel from people who tested positive to COVID-19. The other three were guests on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was anchored in a Japanese port.

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Bibi limps to election 'victory.' But he didn't winCredit: Haaretz Weekly Podcast

Live updates:

10:55 P.M. Joint U.S.-Israel military exercise halted over coronavirus concerns 

The Juniper Cobra joint exericse between the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. Army, which had started earlier this week and was supposed to continue on March 13, ended on Wednesday over coronavirus fears. The decision to stop the drill, which includes over 600 participants from Germany and the United States as well as Israel, was made jointly. 

8:30 P.M. German ambassador to Israel: We hope quarantine measures are temporary

German Ambassador to Israel Susanne Wasum-Rainer says the embassy is aware of Israel's decision to prevent entries from Germany. "In light of the manifold Germany-Israel connections including traveling delegations, we hope that the measures only will need to be of temporary nature," she writes on Twitter. 

7:40 P.M. Some 60,000-70,000 Israelis will be quarantined, Population Authority estimates

Some 60,000-70,000 Israelis will go into quarantine following the new instruction issued by the country's Health Ministry for travelers to go into a 14-day isolation if they had returned from Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland or Austria.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army's chief of staff — Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi — has cancelled a planned trip to the United States following a Health Ministry recommendation to avoid trips abroad if possible.

4:40 P.M. Health Ministry has referred 10 complaints of quarantine violations to police

The Health Ministry says it has referred 10 complaints about people violating their home quarantine to police. Some 1,000 reports about Israelis violating the home quarantine have been received by the Health Ministry over the past two weeks, which are followed up by ministry inspectors. 

4:31 P.M. Health minister says gatherings of at least 5,000 people forbidden

Health Minister Ya'akov Litzman says gatherings of more than 5,000 people will not be allowed. 

4:25 P.M. Israel orders quarantine for travelers returning from Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Switzerland

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a press conference that all travelers returning from these countries must go into a 14-day quarantine, effective immediately.

3:24 P.M. Chief rabbi: Don't touch or kiss mezuzahs

David Lau, Israel's chief rabbi, has issued a statement advising Jews that in light of the virus, they should not touch or kiss mezuzahs – scrolls inscribed with Biblical verses contained in a case placed on a doorpost, which observant Jews traditionally touch or kiss when they enter a building or room. 

3:08 P.M. Netanyahu, health minister to hold press conference on virus at 4 P.M. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Ya'akov Litzman are set to give a statement to the media at the beginning of a press conference on the virus at 4 P.M. following a 3 P.M. meeting between Netanyahu, Litzman, and other Health Ministry officials. 

2:55 P.M. El Al to lay off a thousand workers in face of coronavirus outbreak

El Al will be laying off some 1,000 temporary and permanent staff members within the next few days, due to the sharp drop in demand for flights and the accompanying sharp drop in revenues amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Board members and managers will have their salaries cut by 20 percent retroactive to March 1. 

The airline also told the Histadrut and its own union that it is seeking to cut 20 percent from the salaries of the highest-earning workers who are covered by collective labor agreements. 

The company's stock is down more than 30% in the past month. 

2:28 P.M. Shares on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange fall amid coronavirus fears

Shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange were markedly lower on Wednesday amid fears about the spread of the novel coronavirus. The benchmark Tel Aviv-35 index was down 1.5 percent mid-afternoon, while the broader Tel Aviv-125 index was off 1.8 percent.

The losses in Tel Aviv contrasted with trading in Europe, where stocks were generally higher, and the apparent sentiment on Wall Street, where stock futures also rose.

2:15 P.M. Health Ministry to ask Netanyahu to limit gatherings of over 2,500 people

To curb the spread of COVID-19, the Health Ministry will ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for permission to restrict gatherings of more than 2,500 people, alongside a number of other steps.

1:50 P.M. Magen David Adom 101 hotline experiences high call volume

The Magen David Adom hotline experienced a high volume of calls amid rising fears of coronavirus in Israel, following quarantine orders for thousands of soccer fans in Tel Aviv.

Magen David Adom spokeswoman Zaki Heller stressed that 101 should only be called in cases of symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty in breathing.

The spokeswoman added that for additional instructions, including how to self-quarantine at home, Israelis should visit the Ministry of Health website or call the Health Ministry hotline at 5400.

12:15 P.M. Health Ministry says infected teen attended soccer game in Tel Aviv

The ministry said that the 15-year-old who tested positive for COVID-19 attended a soccer game in Tel Aviv on Monday night. The Health Ministry has ordered that thousands of soccer fans who entered the stadium through gate eight enter isolation immediately.

10:00 A.M. Nearly 2,000 high schoolers in home quarantine after ninth-grade tests positive for virus

Some 2,000 high school students and 100 teachers will be placed in home quarantine after one of the students tested positive for the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. 

The ministry ordered the students, attending the Brenner High School in the central city Petah Tikva, to stay in isolation until March 12. Their parents have been informed.

8:30 A.M. Twenty-seven fifth graders quarantined after teacher tests positive

Twenty-seven fifth-graders from the central city of Kiryat Ono were also placed in quarantine Wednesday, after their teacher tested positive for coronavirus.

The teacher was diagnosed with COVID-19 after visiting a toy store in the central city of Or Yehuda, "Hapirat Ha'adom," whose owner and one of its workers, a ninth-grader, had been infected

12:17 A.M. Three additional Israelis test positive for coronavirus, bringing total to 15

Israel's Health Ministry said that three more Israelis tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 15.

All patients are said to be experiencing only mild symptoms and are under quarantine.

Two of them have also apparently caught the virus at the "Hapirat Ha'adom" store. One of the latest cases is an employee of at the toy store and the other visited the store for over 15 minutes, the Health Ministry said.

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