“Isolation” Voting Stations Planned For Israelis In Quarantine For The Coronavirus During Election

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Grunia and Eliyahu Akiva Freundlich

Israel’s Central Election Committee announced on Tuesday that special polling stations may be established for Israeli citizens who are in their 14 days of self-quarantine after returning from China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Central Election Committee made the announcement after meeting with senior Health Ministry officials about the potential impact of the coronavirus on the upcoming election on March 2.

“Polling stations are currently in public spaces so the Health Ministry requested assistance in the matter,” the Central Elections Committee stated.

The committee added that the polling stations will not be in the same buildings as “regular” polling stations and may even be established in hospitals. Voting officials working at the “isolation” polls will wear special protective clothing to protect them from contracting the virus.

The Central Election Committee’s statement followed Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s announcement earlier this week that  Israelis returning from trips to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau will be required to self-quarantine at home for two weeks. Previously, only Israelis returning from China were required to self-quarantine.

The requirement will affect thousands of young Israelis, many of whom travel to Asian countries following their army service. Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Harav Shlomo Amar will also be affected by the new requirements as he is currently on a chizuk visit to the Jewish community in Singapore.

Furthermore, numerous Israeli media reports say that the new restrictions are not being adequately enforced and numerous Israelis returning from Thailand and the other countries have reported returning home from Ben-Gurion Airport via public transportation. Some travelers said that no one checked them at the airport and they were not given any instructions about self-quarantine. According to an Israel Hayom report, there are only eight Health Ministry inspectors throughout Israel to enforce self-quarantine for thousands of travelers.

The Health Ministry also announced on Monday that Israel’s borders will be closed to all non-Israeli citizens who live in or have been in Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong for the past two weeks.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry criticized the Health Ministry’s decision, reportedly due to concern of the diplomatic fallout from the affected countries. Senior officials in the Finance Ministry and Tourism Ministry reportedly slammed the decision as well, fearing the economic consequences of the decision.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)