Search and Hit Enter

Thousands of tourists depart Israel and the Palestinian Authority amid coronavirus spread

The IDF coordinated the exit of dozens of tour groups from the West Bank since Friday and transported them directly to the Ben Gurion International Airport for immediate departure after several foreign embassies and consulates requested Israel’s help.

Police, foreign ministry staff, members of the National Security Council and health officials all assisted in the effort.

The airport was prepared refreshments to receive a large number of passengers.

193 Austrians, 25 Italians, 1,029 Germans, 499 Spaniards, 323 from France and 88 from Switzerland, all countries on the Health Ministry’s warning list of potential sources of infection in addition to 546 from Poland and 497 Romanians all left the country by Saturday.

Israel assisted some of those leaving when direct flights were not available after cancelation by the airlines, purchased tickets for others and in some cases, special flights were arranged for the leaving tourists.

Israel is considering placing anyone who returns from the United States in quarantine for coronavirus, a source in Jerusalem said Friday.

The U.S. would join a list of countries whose Israeli visitors are required to spend 14 days in isolation upon return home, including Spain, Italy, China and Hong Kong.

A decision on the matter will be made next week, the source said.

A government official said the Health Ministry is pushing behind the scenes to have the U.S. added to the list, but so far the move has been delayed by some government ministries for fear of compromising diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S.

There is also concern in Jerusalem about the Trump administration’s response to such a decision.

Even so, due to the worsening spread of coronavirus in the U.S., the issue will be discussed again next week and a decision will be made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An official said: “There are so many countries on the table. The implications must be considered, but above all, it is important to protect the health of Israeli citizens.”

The official expressed the belief that adding the U.S. to the list would soon be unavoidable.

Israel Police said Thursday it will begin to crack down on citizens who violate the Health Ministry’s directives, which were designed to stem the spread of the virus.

Police said it has opened eight criminal investigations against Israelis who have violated the state’s home quarantine rules or misled health ministry inspectors.

“Israel Police will work in cooperation with the state prosecution in order to bring to justice anyone who chooses to ignore the Health Ministry instructions and endanger, with their actions — whether through negligence or intentionally — raising the dangers of the spread of the coronavirus,” a police official said.

According to police, those who violate the state’s directives could face up to seven years in prison.

Header: Yaakov Litzman and Benjamin Netanyahu at Health Ministry’s help center (Photo: Dana Kopel)