Authorities in Israel have declared the northern town of Shefa-'Amr to be a restricted zone, effective 1700 Dec. 3 through 1700 Dec. 7, due to heightened coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. Additionally, authorities have extended similar declarations regarding Umm al-Fahm and Kfar Yafia through at least 1700 Dec. 6; the town of Daburiyaa and parts of Rahat are also restricted zones through 1700 Dec. 6. Nazareth will remain a restricted zone until 0800 Dec. 4. Traffic and business activity, as well as movement in and out of restricted zones, are limited.
Israeli authorities have launched a pilot program to reopen 15 malls, seven museums, and several outdoor markets as part of measures to generally ease COVID-19 restrictions. Open-air shopping centers and standalone shops in so-called "green" areas - locations denoted as experiencing low COVID-19 infection rates - have reopened. Shops in "red" (high infection rate) areas remain closed. Places of worship, bed and breakfasts, hair and beauty salons, and other establishments that receive one patron at a time have reopened nationwide; nurseries, kindergartens, public parks, and beaches are also open. Many schools have reopened for in-person classes. Restaurants can provide carryout services.
The tourist areas of Eilat along the Red Sea and Ein Bokek along the Dead Sea have reopened to domestic travelers. Hotels, restaurants, strip malls, zoos, and other attractions in these areas have resumed operations. All visitors to these areas must present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival; local residents and workers must present a negative COVID-19 test taken within a week of entry or undergo a free, rapid test at one of the city's entrances. Other tourist sites throughout the country will remain closed until further notice.
Most public transportation in Israel has returned to regular operating hours. Israel Railway services will continue operating 0500-2200 Sunday-Thursday until further notice. Railway lines to Ben Gurion Airport (TLV), Jerusalem, Raanana, Hod Hasharon, and Kfar Saba remain suspended. Facemasks are required on public transportation.
Israel's ban on entry by nonresident foreign nationals remains in effect. However, there are currently no restrictions on citizens and permanent residents returning to the country. Cargo and emergency flights remain unaffected. Israeli citizens and residents returning from certain pre-approved countries with low COVID-19 infection rates are exempt from the nation's mandatory 12-day quarantine. However, Israeli citizens and legal residents returning from other destinations are subject to the quarantine requirement. Arriving travelers who cannot demonstrate that they can self-quarantine at home will be isolated at a government-established facility.
Gatherings remain limited to 20 people outdoors and 10 people indoors. The government reserves the authority to shut down any establishments that fail to comply with mandates, including the compulsory use of facemasks, daily temperature checks of employees, and regular sanitization of communal surfaces, among others, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.