Israel weighing quarantine requirement for anyone entering the country


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel could soon require anyone arriving in the country to self-quarantine, as the number of Israelis affected by the virus climbed to 39.

Reports had suggested earlier that a quarantine requirement was under consideration for travelers arriving in Israel from several high-infection areas of the United States. But in a news conference Sunday night, Netanyahu said any further action would apply to everyone entering the country.

“We have come to the conclusion that if we take further steps, they will actually need to apply to all countries,” Netanyahu said during a briefing Sunday evening at the Prime Minister’s Office. “It is pointless to do this in a small way.”

The news conference was held in Jerusalem by Netanyahu, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Director General of the Health Ministry Moshe Bar Siman-Tov. All three said the final decision on whether to implement the measure will be made on Monday after discussions with health experts.

On Saturday, Siman-Tov had said in an interview that Israel could soon require quarantines for all travelers arriving from certain high-infection areas of the U.S., specifically naming New York, Washington state and California. But Netanyahu said Sunday that the further measures under consideration would apply more broadly.

“We are not talking about closing our gates,” Netanyahu said. “We are only discussing requiring quarantine for whoever arrives in the country, returning Israelis or foreign nationals coming to the country. As I stated, this is not a simple decision.”

Netanyahu also said the country is working on developing a home testing kit for the coronavirus, which he compared to a home pregnancy test.

Netanyahu spoke by telephone Sunday with Vice President Mike Pence and they agreed they would speak again by Monday. Pence is leading the U.S. task force on the coronavirus.

“We have agreed on technological cooperation to develop extensive and rapid screening methods as well as vaccines” with the United States, he said.

Siman-Tov said at the news conference that Israelis should be prepared for the situation to worsen, but that Israel’s tough measures restricting entry to the country has saved lives.

The Health Ministry announced Sunday night that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had climbed to 39, including the first case in which the source of the infection is not known.

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