Israel announces 14-day quarantine for all overseas arrivals

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Israel will impose a two-week quarantine on all travelers entering the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

“After a day of difficult discussions, we have taken a decision. All those coming to Israel from abroad will be placed in isolation for 14 days,” Netanyahu said in a video broadcast on his Twitter account. “This decision will be effective for two weeks,” he added, while promising measures to support the Israeli economy.

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Israel had already imposed restrictions on travelers arriving from several countries including Italy, Europe's worst-hit country in terms of deaths from the deadly new virus. Israel has so far recorded 42 cases of the illness.

The Palestinian Authority, which on Thursday declared a 30-day state of emergency in parts of the West Bank it administers, has reported 25 cases.

The latest measures come a month ahead of the Passover festival which usually sees tens of thousands of Jews head to Israel to celebrate.

Government officials said the order would come into force immediately for Israelis returning to the country. From Thursday, any non-Israelis seeking to enter the country will have to prove they have the means to self-quarantine, the officials said.

Israeli media said the latest measure would mean quarantine for some 300,000 citizens in a country of around 9 million. The Health Ministry has said Israel currently has 42 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Uncertainty about the impact of the new measures hit Tel Aviv's blue-chip stock index and the broader TA-125 which were both down around 6.5 per cent.

The shekel, which peaked against the dollar in mid-February at 3.416, was trading at about 3.5 on Monday. Israel’s central bank has said it did not expect a major economic impact if the virus was halted in the coming months, but that it was ready to use monetary policy tools whenever necessary should conditions worsen.

Netanyahu held a video conference on Monday with leaders of Italy, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus to discuss cooperation during the crisis. “We each have our own experiences. We see what works, what doesn't work and we can trade with each other,” he said during the conference call, which was open to the media.

Israeli public broadcaster Kan said the quarantine restrictions were even affecting the country's intelligence service. Kan said, without citing sources, that returning Mossad operatives had been ordered to stay at home for two weeks.

Thirteen Americans were heading home from the Holy Land on Monday after they were cleared in a coronavirus scare, the mayor of the Palestinian town where they had been quarantined said. The group, from the 3Circle Church in Fairhope, Alabama, was placed in quarantine at the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala on Wednesday after several hotel staff there tested positive.

(With Reuters)