Hundreds of U.S. Coronavirus Patients Arrived in Israel Within Weeks

U.S. arrivals make up 40 percent of cases infected abroad, Health Ministry says

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Israeli nationals arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport from the United States.
Israeli nationals arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport from the United States. Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

One-fifth of the people in Israel who have contracted the coronavirus were infected abroad, arriving in the country after the crisis developed, the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

People in Israel were infected in 67 other countries, but over the last four weeks, hundreds of sick people have come here from the United States, making up 40 percent of the patients infected abroad.

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These details appear in an epidemiological report published by the Health Ministry on Tuesday.

The report addresses the period between February 16 and April 11, by when the number of people infected with the virus in Israel had reached 10,825. Of these, 2,005 confirmed cases arrived from other countries, notably from the United States in the past three weeks.

This coincides with the deteriorating situation in America over the same period. As the outlook worsened in the United States, many people who could opted to take refuge in Israel.

The data shows that between March 15 and 21, the week when it was decided to forbid entry to anyone not an Israeli citizen even if they could go into quarantine, 200 people confirmed to be carrying the virus entered Israel.

Sixty to 70 of them came from the United States, double the number arriving from France. A week later this number peaked, with 560 entries of confirmed cases, 310 of them from the United States.

That week, a group of 65 Chabad Hasidim with Israeli citizenship arrived in Israel from New York, where they had been studying. This group was transferred to the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem.

The following week, 290 people with the virus arrived here, almost half of them from the United States. Last week, 80 such people arrived, 50 from the United States.

In total, 537 people carrying the virus arrived here from the United States last month, whereas the number from European countries totaled 610. Of these, 150 were from France, 110 from Britain and 70 from Spain. Other European countries contributed smaller numbers.

The report says that if Israel had not enforced a strict quarantine on people returning from abroad on March 18, or closed its border to people unable to go into isolation, the rise in the number of sick people would have intensified in subsequent weeks.

In recent days it has turned out that the order to immediately place anyone returning to Israel under quarantine in hotels was not being implemented, and many arrivals simply went home from the airport. Some of these people took no protective measures and were not checked upon arrival.

This comes as the public health services are striving to determine the movement of every sick person, and are trying to identify each sick person’s contacts. Meanwhile, Israelis are obeying a long list of restrictions in order to prevent a further spread of the illness.

Accordingly, only 15 percent of sick people are believed to have contracted the virus in public spaces, with 49 percent being infected by direct contact with a confirmed virus carrier.

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