Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday extended quarantine orders to all people arriving in the country, requiring them to stay isolated in their homes for two weeks. Netanyahu called the move “a difficult but vital decision.”
According to details provided by the Health Ministry, as of Monday at 8 P.M. all Israeli citizens returning to Israel from anywhere abroad must enter a 14-day home quarantine immediately upon their return.
Starting Thursday at 8 P.M., foreign nationals arriving to an international border crossing will be permitted entry into Israel, provided that they can demonstrate their ability to enter home quarantine in Israel.
Tourists currently in Israel will be given time arrange their exit from Israel in the coming days. Until their departure, they must adhere to follow the following rules:
- If they develop any symptoms, they must immediately call Magen David Adom, Israel’s national medical emergency service
- Take care to maintain good hygiene practises
- Avoid, as much as possible, large crowds
- Note that it will not be possible to exit to neighbouring countries and then return to Israel
- Document the course of their travels in Israel
Anyone who has returned to Israel from abroad in the previous 14 days, and who is not already under home quarantine as stipulated by the Health Ministry is not obligated to enter home quarantine. This applies so long as they don't develop symptoms of the disease, in which case home quarantine with immediate effect is ordered.
All those currently under home quarantine stipulated by previous instructions by the Health Ministry are to continue their quarantine to the completion of 14 days following their return to Israel.
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During the day, three more Israelis tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the nation’s total to 50. Two had returned from Zurich that day and one returned from Spain via Istanbul.
A 69-year-old resident of northern Israel who had been diagnosed with coronavirus was transferred from home quarantine to an isolated room in the Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa. The patient had returned from Spain.
Israel issued new guidelines for people traveling on buses and trains. Passengers will now be expected not to sit in the front row in local buses, in order to avoid prolonged contact with drivers, while standing will be forbidden on intercity coaches.
Commuters were urged to ventilate carriages as much as possible by opening windows. Israel’s buses and trains are normally air conditioned.
In Tel Aviv, the stock market followed the global trend, experiencing major losses at opening on Monday morning.
The Israel Defense Forces said 1,237 soldiers, all of whom had traveled abroad and returned to Israel, are currently in quarantine. It added that 301 soldiers have finished their isolation and returned to their units.
The Education Ministry instructed the Max Rayne Bilingual School in Jerusalem to close, as many of its students are residents of Bethlehem, which is under closure due to the high incidence of coronavirus there. The Palestinian Authority announced six additional coronavirus cases in the West Bank: five in Bethlehem, bringing the city’s total to 20, and one in Tul Karm.
Fourteen teachers from Nazareth’s Salesian School have entered home quarantine after visiting Beit Sahur, near Bethlehem. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that for now, there will be no further closures in the West Bank.
A member of Israel’s embassy staff in Athens was put in isolation on Monday after contracting the virus on a flight with Greek pilgrims.
The March of the Living, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust, bringing thousands to the site of the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland, and Israel the day after, has canceled the annual event, which has taken place every year since 1988.
Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, who chairs the organizing body, said the event had been postponed after consulting with health officials. “Our primary concern is the health of the many participants and the Holocaust survivors who would be joining them. Given that this is an international event involving 110 delegations from around the world, we have a responsibility to take precautionary measures in accordance with the guidelines given by authorities in various countries,” he said in a statement. The event was slated to take place on April 21.
In the U.S., President Donald Trump dismissed worries over coronavirus, tweeting: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Paul Gosar from Arizona announced they were going into self-quarantine on Sunday after they interacted with a person who tested positive for coronavirus. They reported having had close contact with a person known to be infected with the virus at CPAC, an annual gathering of conservative activists and politicians which Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence also attended.
Cruz said the chances of infection were “extremely low” but he had entered quarantine out of an “abundance of caution.”
This brings the virus one step closer to Trump, as the Washington Post reported on Monday that he had shaken hands with the head of CPAC, who had himself been in contact with the infected man. The White House said the president had not shown any symptoms of the disease.
In the Middle East, the virus caused stock markets on Monday to suffer their most catastrophic opening since the start of 1991 Gulf War.
Saudi state oil giant Aramco dropped by 10 percent on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange at opening on Monday, forcing a halt to Aramco’s trading. Tadawul remained open, but Boursa Kuwait shut down within 30 minutes of opening as stocks again dropped by 10 percent, the third such emergency halt to trading in recent days.
The Dubai Financial Market saw stocks drop by 8.5% in a steep selloff as it opened. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange dropped by over 7%.
Riyadh earlier announced it had now closed air, sea and land borders to Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.
In Iran, already with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the Middle East, government officials said over the weekend that the number could spike to over 450,000, warning that many of the patients might die. Iran’s Health Ministry announced the new figure at a news conference Monday, updating the number of confirmed cases to 7,161.
There are over 7,640 confirmed cases across the Mideast.