Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that the disease it is a pandemic.
“First of all, this is a global pandemic, whether the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) calls it such or not. It is a matter of days or hours. 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,” Netanyahu said.
The Air Force would check that Israel had all essential supplies, he 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 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, DC, and California, he said a decision would be announced later Saturday or Sunday.
Air France said on Saturday it had halted all flights between Paris and Tel Aviv until March 28.
Lufthansa, Air France, Alitalia, Ibera and Wizz Air have all cut back or halted flights to Israel.
Netanyahu said Israel was likely better off than any other country and that he planned to open a credit line on Sunday to aid companies hit by the virus. He said the country needed to strike a balance between the economy and public health.
“I’ll continue to do everything necessary to protect the health of the citizens of Israel. I ask that you to strictly follow the directives,” he said.
On Friday reports said Israel was considering barring entry to US citizens, and forcing Israelis returning from the US into quarantine. Foreigners from the UK and the Netherlands are expected to be denied entry next week.
Between 50,000 and 80,000 Israelis are under self-quarantine and large events such as concerts and sporting matches have been canceled due to directives issued by the Health Ministry.
The Israel Police announced Thursday that it had begun a crackdown on citizens who are violating its far-reaching restrictions.
Israel’s most severe case is a bus driver who chauffeured a group of Greek tourists who were later found to be infected. His condition deteriorated over the weekend, and he is now unconscious and breathing with a respirator at Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Tiberias.
Header: Travelers wearing masks at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. Credit – Dan Balilty for The New York Times.