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Israeli officials divided over quarantine for arrivals from US

On Saturday, the director-general of the Health Ministry, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, indicated that Israel was about to place restrictions on flights arriving from some parts of the US.

Specifying flights from New York, Washington state, and California, he said a decision would be announced later Saturday or Sunday.

But despite an Army Radio report Saturday night saying that the new regulations, designed to help battle the spread of the deadly coronavirus, would be formally announced within hours, no such decision had been confirmed by Sunday morning.

According to the Ynet news site, there was dispute among various officials over the order.

“There are objections to the Health Ministry’s recommendations,” one official was quoted as saying.

They said that the decision reported “won’t necessarily be the final wording.”

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Sunday that any decision must be made in consultation with the Americans due to its sensitivities.

“This decision has internal significance in the US. It is important to work on this issue in cooperation with the Americans,” Levin told Army Radio.

Under the reported decision, Israel was planning on banning any flights from the United States and people returning from last week’s AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, would not be required to enter quarantine.

The pro-Israel lobby group warned US Congress on Friday that two attendees of the group’s annual conference have tested positive for the coronavirus.

But, in addition to imposing self-quarantine measures on some travelling from the US, Israeli authorities have 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.

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.”

Netanyahu said he was in touch with other world leaders and had discussed international cooperation to stem the spread of the outbreak.