Thousands of protesters gathered at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Sunday, April 19, protesting actions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that are perceived to be eroding Israeli democracy. Netanyahu's government maintains that the measures enacted are aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) within the country. Notably, the demonstrators adhered to social-distancing requirements implemented amid the pandemic. Authorities previously approved the demonstration after stipulating that protest organizers provide face masks to participants. No injuries or arrests were immediately reported. Related protests are possible over the coming weeks amid a heightened security presence. Transportation disruptions are to be expected near demonstration sites.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced during a televised address on Saturday, April 18, that some of the COVID-19 containment measures would begin to ease from Sunday, April 19, due to slower infection rates. Workplaces are allowed to increase staffing levels from 15 percent to 30 percent, with some industries being able to return more of their workforce. Shops that sell electronics and household goods, opticians, and other stores are also allowed to reopen as long as strict social-distancing measures are in place. Malls and large markets are to remain closed. Individuals are also be allowed to travel up to 500 m (1650 ft) from their homes and are permitted to exercise with one person. Outdoor prayers of up to ten people can be held as long as there are 2 m (7 ft) between each person, and everyone is wearing a mask. Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that previous restrictive measures may be reimplemented if infection rates increase.
Other restrictions continue to remain in place, including requiring all individuals to wear masks in public. The Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem will remain closed during Ramadan and Muslim citizens are being asked to avoid family feasts and other associated gatherings. Ramadan is expected to start on Thursday, April 23, and end on Friday, May 22. Foreign nationals remain barred from entering the country and most airlines have suspended direct flights to Israel.
As of April 19, 13,491 cases of COVID-19 and 172 associated fatalities have been confirmed in the country. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
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.
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.