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Israel bars entry to 5 European countries amid coronavirus outbreak, cancels joint operations with US military

Israel has imposed tightened travel restrictions on five European countries on Wednesday due to coronavirus fears, effectively barring entry to nearly all non-residents arriving from the affected countries. Further, the Jewish state also ordered all residents and citizens returning from Austria, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland to go into a 14-day home quarantine as soon as they enter Israeli territory.

Prior to this, similar measures have already been imposed for those traveling from China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau, according to a report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).

“We are at the peak of a global epidemic,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during his announcement of the latest travel bans. “We are in a better situation than other countries because, since the beginning, I have given instructions to the maximum possible, not the minimum level of precaution. And we have taken strict, very strict measures, to slow the spread of the virus.”

According to the guidelines provided by the country’s health ministry, foreigners coming in from the aforementioned European countries will be barred from entering Israeli territory unless they provide proof that they have a place to stay in for quarantine. The interior ministry also released a statement saying that tourists flocking into Israel from the affected countries will not be able to enter the Jewish state “from Friday at 8:00 am (0600 GMT).” In addition, international conventions and gatherings of more than 5,000 people have been prohibited.

At the time of writing, Israel only has 15 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus with zero casualties so far. However, about 7,000 citizens have opted to self-quarantine themselves in their own homes. Even during the height of the country’s election period on Monday, many people under quarantine proceeded to vote at special polling stations staffed by officials in protective gear. (Related: It may already be too late for travel restrictions in America, as the coronavirus has already spread to so many cities, it’s unable to be contained.)

Safety precautions

In a separate statement, Reuters reported that the Israeli military said it was scrapping the remainder of its Juniper Cobra joint exercise with more than 600 troops of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), with most of the troops arriving from Germany and the United States. The cancellation was done in accordance with the directives given by the Health Ministry and was done in coordination with the commander of EUCOM.

“U.S. European Command, in close coordination with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), has canceled the remaining portion of Exercise Juniper Cobra 20,” said EUCOM in a statement. “The decision is in alignment with recent Israeli Ministry of Health guidelines on COVID-19, and a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of all participants.”

The two-week drill, which began on on Tuesday, was set to end on March 13. The exercise involved around 2,500 EUCOM soldiers collaborating with 1,000 Israeli soldiers, according to the Israel Defense Forces on Twitter.

Similarly, The U.S. and South Korean militaries canceled an upcoming annual exercise on Thursday as the Asian country is caught in the largest outbreak of coronavirus reported outside of China. The Defense Post reports that there are around 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect the country against a potential attack from the nuclear-armed North. Many of these troops are based directly south of the capital Seoul at Camp Humphreys, one of America’s biggest overseas military facilities.

Combined Forces Command claims that the decision was made as soon as Seoul declared a “severe” alert level over the virus and added that the operation was postponed until further notice. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday that there are more than 500 new infections, one of the largest surges of infection in the world’s 12th largest economy.

As of writing, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that over 95,000 people worldwide are afflicted with the novel coronavirus and emphasized the importance of implementing a comprehensive approach to mitigating the spread of the virus.

Learn more about this ongoing outbreak at

Sources include: [PDF]

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