Israel is taking the extraordinary step of requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday. Israel has reported nearly 40 cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
In a brief video announcing the new policy, Netanyahu said the decision was a difficult one to make. He added that the policy will force people flying into Israel to enter a two-week home quarantine period and that it will be in effect for two weeks.
The requirement for visitors to Israel will be implemented on Thursday. The blanket policy is believed to be the first in the world in response to the coronavirus outbreak that has now killed more than 3,800 people around the globe.
"Foreign nationals who cannot self-quarantine will be refused entry," NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem. He adds, "All Israelis returning from abroad must self-quarantine."
Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman had predicted the move earlier Monday, calling it a "necessary step." He also dismissed reports in Israeli media that portrayed the declaration as a concession to the United States, making the quarantine universal so as not to appear to single out a staunch ally of Israel.
That allegation was "fake news," Litzman said, according to The Times of Israel.
One day before announcing the policy, Netanyahu spoke by phone with Vice President Pence, who is leading the Trump administration's U.S. coronavirus effort. On Monday, the vice president's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Israeli policy.
There are more than 110,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide, according to a dashboard created by Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering. Local transmission of the coronavirus that causes the disease has now been reported in at least 56 countries, the World Health Organization says.