Coronavirus in Israel: All you need to know

Answers to questions on the restrictions imposed to fight the spread of the virus, testing, symptoms, quarantine and more

Coronavirus in Israel (Photo: Flash90)
Coronavirus in Israel (Photo: Flash90)

In response to the global outbreak of the new coronavirus, Israel has taken far-reaching measures to halt its spread in the country, including barring non-nationals who are not based in Israel from entering the country. Since mid-April, it has gradually lifted many restrictions.

On April 19, it imposed new, slightly eased guidelines. The guidelines were further eased a week later, and a 500-meter restriction on outdoor exercise was lifted among other changes on April 30. On May 5, new, much-eased guidelines were introduced. And on May 27, widely eased rules were introduced.

All of The Times of Israel’s ongoing coverage of the pandemic is collected here.

For those required to self-quarantine, the Health Ministry has issued instructions for how to do so. It has also issued guidelines for how to contact emergency health services for people who show symptoms of the virus.

How can people get tested for the virus?

Generally, only those showing COVID-19 symptoms and who returned recently from abroad or were exposed to a confirmed carrier are tested for the coronavirus.

Testing for the virus has increased from several hundred a day nationwide to thousands.

MDA is offering 24-hour “drive through” COVID-19 testing in Tel Aviv and has opened more stations around the country.

Who needs to go into quarantine?

Israelis returning to the country from overseas are required to self-quarantine for 14 days from the time of their arrival.

People with masks walk outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 12, 2020 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Additionally, any person who was at the same location as a confirmed carrier of the coronavirus must self-quarantine in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines. A list of these locations and times can be found on the Health Ministry’s website, as well as on a new mobile app.

People required to self-quarantine must report to the Health Ministry.

Are non-Israelis allowed into the country?

Effective Wednesday, March 18, non-Israeli nationals are barred from entering the country, even if they’re able to prove they can self-quarantine in accordance with Health Ministry instructions.

Non-nationals whose lives are based in Israel, as well as the spouses and children of Israeli citizens, will still be allowed into the country.

Those seeking to enter Israel must file a digital application with their local embassy or consulate, which will evaluate the request.

A screen displaying arrivals shows canceled incoming flights at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 10, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and what does one do if they suspect they have it?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever of over 38 degrees Celsius (100.4° Fahrenheit), coughing, difficulty in breathing, or any other respiratory symptoms.

Instructions on what to do if you believe you may have the virus can be found here. Anyone with a suspected case should not go to the hospital but instead report by phone to emergency health services.

Illustrative: An ambulance, carrying an Israeli woman returning from Italy who displayed symptoms of the coronavirus, arrives at the infectious disease unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on February 28, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Can Israelis travel overseas?

The Health Ministry on February 26 advised all Israelis to avoid traveling overseas, making Israel the first country to urge its citizens to refrain from traveling abroad entirely due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Healthcare workers have been barred from leaving the country and state employees have been advised by the Civil Service Commission not to travel overseas in an official capacity.

The Israel Defense Forces has banned soldiers from traveling abroad and canceled international exercises.

Almost all flights in and out of Israel had gradually been suspended by late March.

When is a cure for the virus expected?

Most experts around the world have estimated that the process of developing, approving, manufacturing and distributing a working vaccine for the coronavirus will take roughly a year, if not longer.

The director-general of the Health Ministry, who has led the fight against the spread of the coronavirus, said he believed this one-year estimate to be correct.

“My working assumption is that this cannot happen in the coming year,” said Moshe Bar Siman-Tov.

There have been several sporadic reports of various anti-viral drugs proving effective in treating the illness — including in the treatment of Israel’s first seriously ill patient, who made a full recovery — though none have been definitively confirmed as of yet.

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