On near-national lockdown, Israelis ordered indoors unless ‘absolutely necessary’

Israel's new steps, which are aimed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, include further restrictions on Palestinian day laborers entering Israel.

al-monitor Israeli border police wearing protective gear as a precaution against the coronavirus guard an Israeli checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on the outskirts of Jerusalem, March 11, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun.

Mar 17, 2020

Israel has ordered its citizens to stay inside unless “absolutely necessary” as the country fights to contain the growing novel coronavirus outbreak with more than 300 confirmed cases.

“There should be no leaving home except for situations that would obligate it,” the country’s Health Ministry said in a statement March 17.

Under the new directive, 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.

The sweeping new measures aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus include further restrictions on Palestinian day laborers entering Israel. With some exceptions, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said in a morning announcement March 17 that only Palestinians who work in the “essential” sectors of health care, agriculture and construction would be allowed entry.

Additionally, those Palestinians who do enter Israel for work will not be permitted to commute back into the West Bank for the next few months. Employers are expected to provide lodging during this period.

Public transportation will no longer operate during the evenings and on weekends.

At least 324 people in Israel are infected with the coronavirus, five of them in serious condition, the country’s Health Ministry said March 17. Another 41 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the West Bank.

On Sunday, Israel’s government approved emergency regulations that would enable the Shin Bet to perform mass surveillance of phones belonging to Israelis who contracted COVID-19.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was tested for the coronavirus, previously announced the closure of all schools and universities until at least after the Jewish holiday of Passover, which concludes April 16.

In addition, all citizens returning to the country from abroad are required to quarantine at home for 14 days. Foreign arrivals will need to prove they have somewhere to self-quarantine in order to be allowed into the country.

Muslim authorities have shut Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock until further notice, and the chief rabbi of the Western Wall has urged Jewish worshippers not to kiss the wall.