Passengers arriving in Israel from New York, Washington state, and California will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days under new regulations decided by Israeli health authorities late on Saturday night, Army Radio reported. Passengers who come to Israel via connecting flights in those US states will not be required to enter quarantine, however.
The report said the new regulations, designed to help battle the spread of the deadly coronavirus, would be formally announced within hours.
It said that the Prime Minister’s Office heard about the decision from media reports and had not confirmed it.
Under the new decision, Israel is not banning any flights from the United States, the report said.
It also said people returning from last week’s AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, would not be required to enter quarantine.
Israeli authorities also decided to bar entry of non-residents flying in from Holland, and to require self-quarantine for Israelis returning from Holland, Army Radio said. Similar regulations have already been imposed on several other countries.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Saturday that the coronavirus was a pandemic more severe than any disease outbreak in the past century.
“First of all, this is a global pandemic, whether the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) calls it such or not,” said Netanyahu. “It is doubtful whether there has been a similar pandemic in the last 100 years. It seems that the rate of infection is greater than we figured.”
He went on: “The assumption that the virus will disappear or evaporate in hot weather is unproven. At the moment, this has no basis that we can build on. The virus is currently spreading to Africa. There is no vaccine and anti-viral drugs are ineffective. Economies are starting to be hurt. Governments are ordering their gates closed. This is important for the supply of products for all economies. Nobody knows how the pandemic will end.”
Twenty-five Israelis are currently known to be infected with the virus, the latest four of whom were announced on Saturday night. One of the 25, a bus driver who ferried Greek pilgrims who later turned out to be infected with virus, is in serious condition. This patient, 38, “is fighting for his life,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said he was in touch with other world leaders and had discussed international cooperation to stem the spread of the outbreak. The virus hit a milestone Friday, infecting more than 100,000 people worldwide. It has killed nearly 3,400 people.
The prime minister said that the virus did not seem to infect youth and children. He said he wanted members of security forces and youth groups to disinfect public places.
The director-general of the Health Ministry, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, indicated Saturday night that Israel was about to place restrictions on flights arriving from some parts of the US. Israel would not take action against all flights from the US, but would act on a state-by-state basis, he said.
Specifying flights from New York, Washington state, and California, he said a decision would be announced later Saturday or Sunday.
Israel has already required returning Israelis from several countries to self-quarantine, and barred foreigners from a slew of European and Asian countries. Some 80,000 Israelis are now reported to be in self-quarantine, and large events such as concerts and sporting matches have been canceled.
Israelis have also been advised against all non-vital international travel.
Over the weekend the Health Ministry added San Marino and Andorra to its list of quarantine countries.
Channel 13 reported that hundreds of suspected cases in Israel were not checked over the weekend because the health system is overwhelmed.
Air France said on Saturday it had halted all flights between Paris and Tel Aviv until March 28.
Lufthansa, Iberia, Wizz Air and Alitalia have already canceled flights to Israel.
Israel on Wednesday barred entry to almost all non-residents of the Jewish state arriving from France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland. The measures come on top of restrictions previously imposed on arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Italy.