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Despite coronavirus fears, 40,000 runners hit Tel Aviv’s streets for marathon

Foreign athletes already in Israel allowed to compete after Health Ministry earlier said it was barring non-resident participants as Israeli officials work to keep out coronavirus

Runners take part in a marathon in Israel's coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 28, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)
Runners take part in a marathon in Israel's coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 28, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

Some 40,000 participated in the Tel Aviv marathon on Friday, including some foreign athletes, after the municipality reversed an earlier decision to exclude them over fears of a coronavirus outbreak at the event.

The race was kicked off by Mayor Ron Huldai at 7 a.m. and many streets around the city are expected to remain closed until 1 p.m.

The city said in a statement Tuesday that Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov had authorized the participation of any runners already in the country — but did not permit the inclusion of participants who had not yet arrived in Israel.

The change came three days after the municipality said it had canceled the participation of all foreign runners, who would be reimbursed the registration fee. But many runners from abroad arrived several days before the race, so the city sought approval for those already in Israel to take part.

Runners take part in a marathon in Israel’s coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 28, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

The city said its decisions were in keeping with Health Ministry directives as officials sought to stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Israel has taken far-reaching steps to prevent an outbreak, including banning entry into the country to foreigners who recently visited Italy, China and a handful of East Asian countries, and forcing Israelis who visited those areas in the past 14 days into a two-week home quarantine.

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