Israel has announced a policy of required home-quarantine for arrival from all countries, a far-reaching measure to contain the spread of coronavirus that had been expected in recent days.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday evening that that the decision had not been taken lightly. “After a day of complex discussions, we made a decision: Everyone who comes to Israel from abroad will enter the 14-day isolation. This is a tough decision, but it is essential to maintain public health – and public health precedes everything.”
Netanyahu added that “This decision will be valid for two weeks, at the same time we are making decisions to maintain the Israeli economy.”
The new policy was effective immediately for Israelis; but the decision to bar entry to foreign nationals with no available home quarantine in the country will not go into effect for 72 hours, according to Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri.
Netanyahu and Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman held a video conference with European leaders on the growing world health crisis.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban participated.
During the conference, Netanyahu made three suggestions: to ramp up the scale and speed of testing for the virus with home test kits; clean airports, sanitized around-the-clock to keep routes of supply going: and an exchange of “best practices” in fighting coronavirus.
The Finance Ministry assessed the sweeping restriction to cost Israel some 4.9 billion shekels ($1.4 billion), Channel 12 said.
At the same time, the government was rolling out a program to help businesses in trouble due to the epidemic, in particular the airlines and the tourism sector.
Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron said Israeli banks have a surplus of 14 billion shekels ($3.98 billion) above requirements and are well-positioned, especially compared with smaller companies.
The Finance Ministry said it was opening a 4 billion-shekel credit line for banks to lend money to small and medium-sized businesses facing a cash crisis with a high-level government guarantee.
“No doubt the fact that the global coronavirus crisis is meeting Israel with a strong economy, low unemployment, a high credit rating and a dropping debt-to-GDP ratio will help us weather the crisis with minimal damage to the economy,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said.
Earlier in the day, the Health Ministry announced that three more people were diagnosed with coronavirus: bringing the total number in country to 42. The latest cases had returned to Israel from trips to Switzerland and Spain.
Also on Monday, Sheba Medical Center reported they were testing one of their doctors for coronavirus after exposure to the disease. The test results were not yet available, but in the meantime, the hospital has put those who worked near her in isolation.
Updated Monday, March 9, 2020 at 2:57 pm update