Chinese Construction Workers to Remain in Israel, Ministry Says

A construction site of a new residential neighborhood in Kfar Yonah. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The government has extended the work visas of 1,700 Chinese construction workers currently in Israel. The visas, which actually expired last summer, have been extended through the end of June. The reason for the extension is due to the ban on entry into Israel of Chinese nationals. Chinese construction workers – who are usually skilled workers who work with ceramic tiles – are given work visas for five years, after which they are supposed to be replaced by other workers.

The Housing Ministry said in a statement that it hoped the coronavirus crisis would be resolved long before June, but that it was prepared to extend the visas even further if needed, in order not to harm the construction industry, which relies on the workers for intricate tile work and other skills.

The visas for the workers currently in Israel expired last June, but replacing them had proved difficult, and their visas were extended through February. But with the outbreak of the coronavirus, Israel, like most other Western countries, has closed its borders to Chinese nationals – meaning that replacing the workers now would be impossible, even if replacements could be found.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman advised Israelis against traveling to seven East Asian countries and destinations — in addition to mainland China — due to the spread of the coronavirus.

After a meeting by Health Ministry officials to assess the situation regarding the spread of the virus, Rabbi Litzman issued a statement urging travelers to carefully consider the necessity of visiting Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan.

Cases of coronavirus have been found in all seven destinations.

The ministry has already told Israelis to avoid travel to mainland China, and has specified precautionary measures to be taken by those returning from the other locations.

“The ministry sees in the public a key partner for action to prevent spread of the disease,” the statement said.

The Health Ministry has previously published special directives for those returning from China, and on Friday updated its procedures for travelers feeling unwell after arriving from specific additional countries in the past 14 days, in light of the increase in the number of coronavirus cases.

The ministry also said that travelers coming from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Macau who have a fever, cough or any other respiratory symptoms must seek medical help and undergo testing.

In addition, anyone who has been in close contact with an individual confirmed to have the virus must also be tested.

Unwell travelers must warn the medical center prior to their arrival, must cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth, and are also asked to avoid using public transportation.

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