Three Israeli diplomatic missions closed due to COVID spread

Embassies in Philippines and Angola temporarily shuttered; 142 ministry staffers test positive

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel has temporarily shuttered several diplomatic missions around the world because of COVID-19 infections, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz said.

As of Monday, Israel’s embassies in Angola and the Philippines were closed because of infections and quarantines among Foreign Ministry staff, Ushpiz said in a Zoom briefing with Israeli journalists.

Israel’s consulates in San Francisco and Los Angeles were briefly closed last week but have since reopened. An additional mission in South America also experienced a brief closure recently, according to Foreign Ministry sources.

Foreign Ministry staff both in Israel and abroad work in pods to limit the spread of the virus.

In total, 13 people at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem were sick with COVID-19 on Monday morning, with six more in quarantine. Abroad the challenge was greater, with 142 infected staffers – including diplomats, their families, and local hires – and another 89 in quarantine.

“Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the heads of missions, and also the personal responsibility of the people working there,” said Ushpiz. “There is no difference in that respect between this issue and the security challenges we deal with.”

Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Some Israeli diplomatic missions are staffed by very few people — sometimes only a chief of mission and head of security — so infections and quarantines can easily cause closures.

The Foreign Ministry has invested significant effort and resources into vaccinating its diplomats and staffers. In February, it began flying them into Israel to receive their vaccinations.

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