Tens of thousands of Israelis will be required to remain quarantined as cultural, sporting and other public events including celebrations of the upcoming Purim holiday will all be canceled.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday issued new guidelines to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including a requirement for anyone returning from France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Spain to maintain a two-week quarantine. Travelers returning from China, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, and Italy have already been instructed to do the same.
The ministry is instructing anyone who has arrived from any of these countries within the past two weeks to also enter a period of quarantine.
Five flights from France, seven from Germany, two from Spain, four from Austria and one flight from Switzerland are all expected to land at the Ben-Gurion International Airport before midnight. Health officials are expected to meet people as they disembark and instruct them in the new guidelines.
Anyone traveling in transit from these destinations will not be required to take any precautionary measures.
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has also announced he is banning gatherings of over 5,000 people.
Purim festivals and holiday events have been canceled by municipalities around the country and the Jerusalem Municipality said it is considering the cancelation of the Jerusalem Marathon scheduled for March 20.
The Israel Football Association announced matches will continue but the crowds will remain home.
Earlier Wednesday, a teacher who is also a deputy principal in an elementary school near Tel Aviv was confirmed to have been infected by the virus. As of this evening, 2,349 students and 146 teachers and support staff from various schools and kindergartens are among those quarantined.
Eurovision winner and international star Netta Barzilai who returned from Spain is also required to stay in quarantine for two weeks as are 150 El Al crew members.
Tel Aviv and Bar Ilan universities have announced they are canceling all academic conferences that include the participation of international guests at least until the end of April, although the decision is expected to be extended.
The Civil Service Commission announced it is banning all international travel for employees and strongly urges that any civil service member refrain from private international travel as well.
Health workers are also required to stay in Israel at the instruction of the director-general of the Health Ministry.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Health Ministry earlier in the day and briefed reporters on the new measures adopted by the government saying that the world was in the midst of a pandemic. “This is the truth and it must be said,” the prime minister stated.
“Israel is one of the only countries in the West that is in a relatively good place,” the prime minister said. “We’ve taken severe measures in order to prevent the spread [of the virus].”
Netanyahu advised against shaking hands and suggested the Indian greeting Namaste as an option.