Israel seals borders to foreigners in latest coronavirus measure

Israel announced it would close its borders to noncitizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

al-monitor Travelers wearing masks chat in the arrivals terminal after Israel said it will require anyone arriving from overseas to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 10, 2020. The government now says it will not allow noncitizens to enter Israel. Photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun.

Mar 18, 2020

In its latest attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Israel has shut its borders to foreigners as a top official warned that a complete lockdown of the country was “inevitable.”

Israel had previously said that citizens returning to the country from abroad were required to quarantine at home, and that tourists wishing to enter must first prove they had somewhere to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

“Beginning today, the entrance of foreigners will not be allowed into Israel, even if they can prove they could remain in quarantine,” the Population and Immigration Authority said in a statement March 18.

The government has also closed Israel’s border crossings with Egypt and Jordan. 

So far, Israel has confirmed 433 cases of the coronavirus, with six patients in serious condition. The West Bank has recorded 44 cases, with a majority in Bethlehem. As the outbreak escalates in Israel, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan predicted the next step was a "full shutdown.” 

“I am convinced that in view of the situation that has arisen, this is an inevitable decision that will save many lives,” Erdan said March 18. 

The country is already on partial lockdown, with Israelis ordered earlier in the week to stay indoors unless it was “absolutely necessary” to leave. The government announced March 17 that parks, pools and beaches are largely off-limits. Shopping for food is only permitted if there are no delivery options, and exercise is only allowed outdoors for 10 minutes if there are no other people nearby.

In an interview with Channel 12 News, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will consider administrative fines for those who do not follow the new rules. 

The Palestinian Authority ordered a lockdown in three major West Bank cities after several residents tested positive for coronavirus, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Residents will be prohibited from moving around the towns of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour. Travel in and out of Bethlehem is off-limits. 

Authorities have also suspended public transportation and limited movement in other West Bank cities.