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Israel imposes quarantine for all arriving international travelers

The isolation requirement for the return of the Israelis will take effect immediately, according to the office of interior minister Aryeh Deri. For foreigners, the requirement is to enter into force by Thursday. Foreigners will have to prove that they have a place where they can be quarantined.

The new restrictions, among the strictest adopted by any country, come when the number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Israel reached 42 years. More than a dozen new cases emerged on Sunday and Monday.

Among the new infections was the first case that could not be traced back to international travel or exposure to a known infected person, increasing the possibility of accelerating the spread in the general population. More than two dozen cases have been reported in the occupied West Bank and Israel is working with the Palestinian Authority to rule the outbreak there.

Officials announced a series of accelerated measures to combat the enlarged epidemic, including plans to close transits from Jordan, to exclude non-citizens from Egypt’s emerging infection zone and to reduce movements to and from the West Bank.

The imposition of quarantine for all arriving international passengers came after several days of confused messages from the government. Critics said the decision to adopt the isolation requirement for all those arriving from abroad was made to avoid identifying American travelers and angering President Trump.

Israel already imposes quarantine for anyone arriving from several countries with severe outbreaks, including Italy, Japan and South Korea. Over the weekend, officials of the Israeli Ministry of Health were reportedly preparing to add travelers from New York, California and Washington, the centers of the growing outbreak of the United States.

But local media, citing sources within the Ministry of Health, reported that Netanyahu contested those recommendations for fear of angering Trump.

Thousands of Americans and Israelis fly on air routes between the two countries. Dozens of Israelis attended the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington, where at least three participants subsequently tested positive for the virus. Health officials said Monday that Israelis who returned from the conference after Thursday should have self-isolated.

In the nearby West Bank, infections have mostly been reported around Bethlehem, which has been sealed for nearly a week. That outbreak is centered around the Angel Hotel, where a Greek tourist remained who later turned out to be positive for the virus. A group of American evangelical Christians from Alabama was stuck in the hotel for almost a week.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority reportedly worked closely together to expand coronavirus tests in the territories, along with other control measures, in an effort to prevent the West Bank’s underfunded medical system from being overwhelmed. Qatar has provided $ 10 million to help prepare a Bethlehem hospital for coronavirus, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.

Israel has weighed further restrictions on thousands of Palestinian workers, who continued to cross Israel daily from the West Bank. Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan suspended visits by Palestinians to their relatives in Israeli jails on Sunday.

Fear of a widespread outbreak is growing as Israel and the West Bank prepare for some of the biggest religious events on the Holy Land calendar. Easter, this year on April 12, typically attracts large crowds of tourists to the Old City of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other sites. Tens of thousands gather regularly for Friday prayers in al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, which begins on April 23.

And Jewish Passover, which begins on April 8, is normally a time when Israelis go on vacation abroad. But with the coronavirus disrupting travel plans and supply chains alike, retailers predict that an unusually large crowd of residents will face a shortage of matzoh and other holiday items.

Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.

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