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17 Apr 2020 | 07:32 AM UTC

Israel/Palestinian Terr.: Al-Aqsa mosque to remain closed during Ramadan April 16 /update 21

Religious authorities announce on April 16 the closure of Al-Aqsa during the month of Ramadan; follow authority directives

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Event

On Thursday, April 16, religious authorities announced that the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem will remain closed during the month of Ramadan due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The decision was made based on religious fatwas and medical advice to prevent any further spread of COVID-19. Ramadan is expected to start on Thursday, April 23, and end on Friday, May 22.

From Sunday, April 12, to Wednesday, April 15, several Jerusalem neighborhoods located in "restricted zones" went into lockdown. Per the measures, residents of these neighborhoods were prohibited from leaving their zones, except for work, essential medical treatment, and other pre-approved reasons. The lockdown applied to the neighborhoods of Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Neve Yaakov, Har Nof, Givat Shaul, Kiryat Moshe, Rehavia, Nahlaot, Makor Baruch, Romema, Ezrat Torah, Geula, Mea Shearim, Beit Israel, Musrara, Bayit Vegan, and Givat Mordechai. As of April 16, the government chose to extend the lockdown, and added Shmuel HaNavi to the list. Security personnel was deployed to enforce the regulations, and roadblocks were erected to close off the designated neighborhoods.

On Saturday, April 11, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that all flights into Israel will be suspended until the Home Front Command can be granted legal authority to transfer all arriving passengers to state-run hotels for a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. As of April 11, neither the police nor the military has the legal authority to compel passengers to move into quarantine-sanctioned hotels. According to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the suspension will remain in place until the situation is resolved.

As of Friday, April 3, a heightened security presence was reported in Bnei Brak (northeast of Tel Aviv) after the Israeli cabinet declared the area a "restricted zone" on Thursday, April 2. The measures were announced following estimates that up to 75,000 of Bnei Brak's residents may be infected with COVID-19. Dozens of checkpoints have been set up around the city, with reports of drones being deployed to further enforce restrictions on movement within the city as residents have been told to only leave their homes when essential. The lockdown in Bnei Brak has been eased, wherein vehicles may enter the neighborhood, though public transportation will not be permitted. 

On Sunday, April 12, an order requiring all individuals to wear masks in public came into effect. As of Wednesday, March 25, residents have been ordered to remain in their homes unless undertaking vital activities, such as purchasing food and medicine or working in essential services. Citizens are also allowed to take a short walk but must remain within 100 m (328 ft) of their homes.

As of Friday, April 17, there have been 12,855 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel, with 148 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.