To be fair, my headline is technically inaccurate, but it’s true for all intents and purposes. Israel’s newly re-elected Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, announced yesterday that henceforth, all visitors to Israel would have to go into quarantine for fourteen days.
Going into quarantine for two weeks makes most business or leisure travel impracticable, of course. There’s no point heading to Tel Aviv for your meeting if you have to wait for two weeks to meet anybody. So in practical terms, the only people coming and going from Israel for the next while will be Israelis:
Israel is taking the extraordinary step of requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday. Israel has reported nearly 40 cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Netanyahu said the decision had been a difficult one, in a brief video in which he announced the new policy on social media. He added that the quarantine policy, which will force people flying into Israel to enter a two-week home isolation period, will be in effect for two weeks.
The policy will go into effect for visitors to Israel on Thursday. The quarantine requirement is believed to be the first in the world in response to the coronavirus outbreak that has now killed more than 3,800 people.
Israel presently has….. 40 cases of Coronavirus. Ireland is a mere 16 behind, at the time of writing, with 24, or closer to 35 if you include the whole island.
Whatever about culture and politics, economically, our two countries are in relatively similar positions. Ireland is an island, and Israel, because of its relations with its neighbours, is effectively an island. Nearly all international trade is done through its ports and airports. Effectively shutting down travel into the country is a massive act of economic self-harm.
In other words, if you still don’t think Coronavirus is a potentially society-altering threat, you haven’t been paying attention.
And then, literally as I was writing this, came the massive news from Italy:
“Italy is extending its strict coronavirus quarantine measures, which include a ban on public gatherings, to the entire country.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the measures, which come into effect on Tuesday, were necessary to defend the most fragile members of the community.
He added that the best thing for the citizens of Italy was to stay at home.
Italy’s coronavirus death toll jumped on Monday by 97 to 463. It is the worst-hit country after China.”
The impact of the nationwide quarantine in Italy is hard to explain, and yet very simple: Nobody is allowed to leave their homes without permission from the state. The whole country is, effectively, in lockdown.
All sporting events have been cancelled – Serie A, the Italian equivalent of the English Premiership, has been suspended for 25 days. Nobody is allowed to go to work. The economic impact of this is likely to be devastating.
Almost 100 Italians died of Coronavirus today – but as yet, there are only about 8,000 officially recorded cases. If, as is expected, the numbers continue to explode, the death toll will reach apocalyptic levels. The Italians, facing economic catastrophe or human catastrophe, have chosen the former.
Ireland, meanwhile, only a few cases behind Israel, continues to move more cautiously.
But the Government may be running out of time, and options.
One way or another, we’ll be talking about Coronavirus for years, like we do about the 11th of September. It’s on course to be an epoch-defining event.