Jewish life in Milan grinds to a halt over coronavirus as Israel blocks Italian arrivals

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri signed an order on Thursday restricting access for Italian residents into Israel



Schools have been closed and Torah classes cancelled as Jewish life in Italy's business capital Milan grinds to a halt because of coronavirus.

The Holocaust Museum has also postponed book launches while a community conference on Zionist history was shelved in the city, home to Italy's second largest Jewish community at around 11,000.  

Synagogues have agreed to prevent visitors or large crowds from attending daily services — much to the disappointment of one boy who had invited some 600 guests from around the world to his bar mitzvah to find that he would have to pray in an almost empty hall.

Milan’s kosher cafes, centred in the Lorrenteggio district of the city, have been told that they must conform to the authorities' decrees that public spaces such as theatres, cinemas and restaurants shut at 6pm.

Milo Hasbani, the president of Milan’s Jewish community, told The Jerusalem Post that nobody in the community had yet been infected, and that the community was “considering appointing a special task force to deal with the emergency”.

Italy is home to the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases after China and South Korea, at over 650, and Rome has been scrambling to contain the outbreak.

The cases are mostly in Italy’s northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, where eleven towns have been locked down.

Meanwhile in Israel, Italy’s coronavirus outbreak has made holidaymakers’ trips difficult, as tour groups reported being turned away from hotels and being treated “like the plague”.

La Repubblica reported that the Italian embassy’s switchboard in Tel Aviv was “practically overheated” dealing with calls from Italians looking for help after being turned away from hotels or after being on the receiving end of “hostile attitudes”.

Italian journalists seeking to cover Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election night event have also reported being denied accreditation “for security reasons”, despite having attending his Likud party’s previous events.

On Thursday, as Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced that Israel would ban arrivals from Italy from entering Israel, immigration officials turned back 234 passengers arriving on a Ryanair flight from Bergamo in northern Italy.

Israeli citizens were allowed to land and were told to remain in self-imposed quarantine for two weeks.

The Health Ministry warned against “travelling to conferences and other international congregations, including trips to religious events where people from many countries meet, should be avoided”.  

Around 1,500 Israelis are currently quarantined at home, the health ministry’s figures reported.

Some 82,000 people have been infected worldwide and around 2,800 have died as a result of the virus since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

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