As COVID-19 cases spike, Israel goes back into temporary lockdown while airport remains open

Sep 15, 2020

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Mere weeks after the Israeli government reopened the country’s economy, COVID threatens to shut down Israel again.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a second lockdown Sunday night 13 September for a temporary period of three weeks, declaring that the country’s sudden spike in cases had led “health services to raise a red flag”. Netanyahu assured the people that Israel’s economy was still in good shape, and stated that the second wave was typical of many other countries worldwide which had reopened their economies.

The country started out strong with a proactive approach to the pandemic. Back in March, Israel was one of the first worldwide to issue blanket quarantines to all incoming arrivals, regardless of nationality. This included Israeli nationals, which greatly contributed to Israel flattening its infection curve to around 50 new cases per day in early May. Cases quickly spiked once businesses, schools and houses of worship reopened, however, leading to a second wave of patients.

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Now, as the first Israeli hospital prepares to turn away patients due to overcrowding and cases continue to rise to historic highs, the cabinet voted to put the economy back on a temporary three-week lockdown.

Related: A country-by-country guide to global reopenings

Under the terms of this latest quarantine, residents across the country would have to observe the following guidelines:

  • People are restricted from travelling beyond a 500-meter radius from their houses
  • Group gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors
  • Markets and pharmacies will remain open
  • Authorities have not yet decided if houses of worship will be closed down as well

Notably, Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV) will remain open after some initial uncertainty. Israelis departing TLV must be able to show their tickets four hours before their flight in order to leave the 500-meter house quarantine perimeter without violating the terms of lockdown. Returning travellers can enter freely without quarantine when returning from “green” countries, while travellers entering Israel after passing through “red” countries must observe a 14-day quarantine at home upon arrival. The full list of approved countries can be found here.

The decision to implement a second lockdown has been met with significant controversy from individuals and business owners alike, as the lockdown dates coincide with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, two of the biggest Jewish holidays of the year.

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Netanyahu also drew ire from critics for flying to the U.S. immediately after making his announcement, where Israel and the UAE are signing a historic peace-brokering agreement.

Featured photo by Xantana/Getty Images.

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