The coronavirus scare has evolved into a worldwide emergency, with a large number of countries cutting off travel with China. Israel has done so as well, and on Monday, the Health Ministry issued instructions to travelers who have been in China in recent weeks that they needed to quarantine themselves at home for at least two weeks.
In a statement, the Ministry said that the quarantine was not a suggestion, but an emergency rule – and violating it was a crime. A report in Calcalist said that the Ministry was assembling a staff to keep tabs on these travelers and ensure they remain at home. As of Tuesday, no Israelis have been diagnosed with the disease.
If they are required to stay at home and are not allowed to go to work, the government is going to have to compensate, attorneys for the Ministry have determined. According to Calcalist, that could cost the government over NIS 25 million. According to records, some 5,000 Israelis were in China during the period of outbreak of the virus, and paying them based on their average salaries – which could amount to over NIS 10,000 for the two week period – could cost the state a hefty amount.
According to the report, the Ministry considered setting up a quarantine facility where all travelers who have been to China would remain isolated for the two week period, ensuring that they remained away from the public. That idea was rejected, out of concern that most of those in the facility might actually not have the disease, but would be infected by being within close quarters of coronavirus sufferers.
There is also great concern that Israeli exports to China could be greatly harmed if the virus is not brought under control and the country becomes further isolated. Israel exported in 2019 about 11% of its total production to China, worth about $7.7 billion. The vast majority of those were high-tech exports, including parts and components. There is also concern over imports, with some fearing that products will need to be screened before import – or banned altogether. Israel imported $8.2 billion in goods directly from China, 11.3% of total imports.
Speaking to Calcalist, Chen Lichtenstein, CEO of Adama (formerly Makhteshim Agan Industries Ltd.), a manufacturer of crop protection and growth products and which several years ago acquired ChemCHina – making the company very active in China – said that as a result of the virus, many of the company’s activities have been halted. Much of the company’s production in China is exported, he said, and while there were supplies in warehouses, the company needed to get back to work.
“We are good for about a month, but if it goes on beyond that – beginning on February 9th – we may have a problem in supplying our customers. Even if companies do begin partial operations again, moving merchandise is going to be a big problem, because many roads and ports are closed,” he added.