Israel on Tuesday announced several new measures aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus, including banning gatherings of more than 2,000 people and limiting visits to hospitals and retirement homes.
“All public gatherings should seriously be reconsidered and all gatherings of over 2,000 people cannot go ahead,” the Health Ministry announced, reducing the current limit from 5,000 and saying that the number would be reviewed depending on developments.
It also provided new guidelines for dealing with vulnerable populations like the sick and elderly.
“The public should refrain from visiting hospitals and old age homes,” the statement said, adding that if someone needs a chaperone for a visit or appointment, they should make do with only one.
“People with symptoms are not allowed to accompany the sick or visit institutions for the senior community,” it said, noting that it again recommends that “the elderly, particularly those with underlying conditions, and those with compromised immune systems, reduce contact as much as possible with others while still maintaining their daily routines.”
The Welfare Ministry said anyone wanting to visit relatives in old age homes would be able to meet outside the facilities.
Channel 13 news reported Tuesday that the Health Ministry has ordered 1,000 new respirators, in addition to the thousands in storage in emergency warehouses. According to the report, the move is to prevent a collapse of the health care system in the same way that Italian hospitals have struggled to keep up with the deluge of patients.
The IDF has called up an additional 100 reservists to assist the Magen David Adom ambulance service as the coronavirus spreads, the military said Tuesday. Thus far, approximately 200 reservists have been called up. Approximately 70 of them are assisting the IDF Home Front Command develop educational materials about the disease.
There have so far been 58 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel, most of them contracted by travelers returning from abroad.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday sent out additional itineraries of Israelis and tourists who were found to be carrying the coronavirus, ordering those in contact into quarantine.
Some of those who have been confirmed to have the infection visited facilities for the elderly before they went into quarantine.
The virus is of highest risk to the elderly and also those with underlying health problems.
The new guidelines come a day after Israel drastically ratcheted up its efforts to protect the country from the coronavirus threat, requiring all those arriving from abroad to go into quarantine.
All Israeli citizens returning from overseas were ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days with immediate effect. Non-Israeli citizens will be allowed into the country until Thursday at 8pm. But after that, they will be barred completely unless they can demonstrate that they have a place to quarantine here for 14 days.
The move will essentially shut down tourism and send shockwaves through Israel’s already battered travel sector. Israelis who are abroad have been warned they should consider coming back sooner rather than later as increasing numbers of flights to Tel Aviv are being canceled by both El Al and other carriers.
Over 100 flights were canceled Tuesday at Ben Gurion Airport, Channel 12 reported.
The quarantine measures are among the most dramatic to be introduced by any nation in the intensifying battle against the coronavirus. On February 26, Israel had become the first country in the world to advise its citizens against all non-essential overseas travel.
The latest move went into effect immediately for Israelis, but will only be applied to non-Israelis beginning Thursday night, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said. It is not retroactive for those who have already returned from trips abroad, officials said.
The virus has infected more than 110,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,800 people.