Israelis returning from Far East ordered into home isolation to prevent spread of coronavirus

Thousands of Israelis returning from Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore must quarantine themselves at home, although no enforcement mechanism is in place.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In an effort to keep the coronavirus out of Israel as much as possible, the Ministry of Health has ordered those Israelis returning from Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore to isolate themselves at home for two weeks to ensure that they are not ill.

The problem is that the ministry has no way of enforcing the ruling, as thousands of tourists come back each day from these and other countries. The health authorities have exactly eight employees to check if the returning vacationers and businesspeople return to work, go shopping, or just walk their dogs outside.

There are other weaknesses in the plan as well. The ministry’s Enforcement and Supervision Department will be dependent on people calling in to its “Voice of Health” hotline to report scofflaws.

Inspectors have no authority to do a random check. And even if someone is caught violating the quarantine, the sanctions against the violator haven’t been determined yet, so deterrence is not much of a factor.

Israelis currently vacationing in Thailand expressed their intention to ignore the quarantine when returning home, Israel Hayom reports on Tuesday

“I believe there’s a hidden interest behind this decision,” said Israeli vacationer Yafit Amar. “I don’t believe that Israel knows better than the entire world. No one else in the world has made a similar decision [regarding Thailand]. I have work and children to care for when I get back, I’m not going to be in quarantine.”

Other Israeli travelers said the Ministry of Health demand was “brazen” and that “there is unnecessary panic and we will not disrupt our lives because of it.”

As of Saturday, Thailand reportedly had 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as the disease has been named – second only to Singapore’s 50 in Asian countries outside of China, the epicenter of the virus.

Thailand is a very popular destination for Chinese tourists, with over 10 million coming to enjoy the country in 2019.

Although the numbers have dropped sharply due to current Chinese travel restrictions, Thailand is seemingly loath to lose the much-needed injection into its economy and has yet to ban their entry as many other countries have, including Israel.

Altogether, 1,868 people have died so far from COVID-19, with 72,436 confirmed infected cases. The vast majority are in China. In 26 other countries, 827 patients have been diagnosed with the disease, and only five have died.