Coronavirus spurs 20,000 Americans to leave Israel in past two weeks

Americans are among the almost 200,000 foreigners who left Israel since March 27 as the coronavirus spreads.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Close to 200,000 foreign nationals left Israel in the past two weeks as the coronavirus crisis grew worse, while in the opposite direction Israelis returned home in almost the same numbers, the Population and Immigration Authority reported Sunday.

Since March 27 191,243 foreigners left Israel including 13,309 who departed in one day last Thursday. During the same period 216,843 Israelis returned home, the Authority said in a press release on its website. Those leaving the Holy Land included 19,246 Americans and at least 17,000 Europeans.

Since the decision last week to bar entry to foreigners unless they had a private home to self-quarantine for two weeks, some 500 people were turned away at the border crossings.

As the coronavirus epidemic spread, Israel was among the first countries to restrict air travel when it halted flights to and from China at the beginning of February. At the time the Ministry of Health ordered that any Israeli returning from China had to spend two weeks in home-quarantine in a bid to keep the virus from spreading.

By the end of February, the health ministry ordered Israelis to reconsider all foreign travel as thousands of returning airline passengers from infected countries like Italy and Spain were required to enter the required 14-day home isolation.

More stringent restrictions were imposed over the following weeks by barring foreign tourists arriving from highly infected countries and forcing all returning Israelis into mandatory quarantine. At the time, that did not include North America.

However, with foreign tourists visiting the Holy Land bringing the virus with them and infecting both Israelis and Palestinians, and Israelis returning home sick, including some who had been infected in the United States, Israel considered extending the quarantine order to everybody arriving from America.

That peaked when Israel effectively shutdown inbound tourism by ordering that all foreigners now arriving had to immediately enter the same mandatory two-week quarantine.

The coronavirus has hit Israel’s airlines hard, with national flag carrier El Al laying off 80 percent of its workforce and the tourism industry, a significant part of Israel’s economy, paralyzed by the total shutdown resulting from that latest moves by the government to stop the spread within Israel of what is now considered a pandemic.