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Corona virus fears cause mass quarantine, economic damage in Israel

A ninth grader was diagnosed with coronavirus, raising the count of Israelis sick with the disease to 15, the Health Ministry announced on Tuesday, and the expected quarantine of another 1,150 high school students.

Still, let’s put that in proportion. Just 15 out of ten million people.

Some 5,000 Israelis are already quarantined, mostly in their own homes.

Israel has taken stringent measures in response to the outbreak of this virus including banning flights from certain countries, banning foreigners who traveled to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Italy in the 14 days prior to arriving, and urging Israelis to refrain from unnecessary travel. The virus has been contained here and all Israelis who have been infected have recovered.

The economy, however, may take a lot longer to recover. Following Ministry of Health recommendations that Israelis should refrain from unnecessary travel, tour companies have experienced cancellations and plunging demand while Israel’s national airline, El Al, is implementing a 20 percent pay cut for executives and considering laying off nearly one-sixth of its workforce.

El Al already stopped its flights to China, Thailand and Italy and recently suspended flights to European destinations that have seen relatively few infections including Cyprus, Vienna, Budapest, Brussels and Frankfurt due to low demand.

“Due to the special circumstances caused by the coronavirus outbreak, and the recommendations by the Ministry of Health to the public, we are compelled to make commercial adjustments to certain flights, although as part of this we are providing alternative options on other flights,” the company said in a statement. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.”

El Al will lay off 60 pilots and 100 cabin crew recently hired and will implement a hiring freeze while it considered plans to lay off 1,000 employees. El Al told investors last week that the company expects to post a $50-70 million loss between January and April.

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