On most spring days, Tel Aviv’s sprawling beachfront is a hive of activity, with joggers and cyclists racing up and down the boardwalk, fitness enthusiasts pumping away at outdoor gyms and the constant racket of paddle-ball.
The arrival of the new coronavirus, and the strict measures imposed to contain its spread, have changed all that. The beaches are deserted, and authorities have strung red and white tape across outdoor gyms and playgrounds to keep people from touching the equipment.
The beachfront is the main tourist attraction and the largest open space in the city of 450,000 people. It’s never been this empty, even when the country has been at war.
Most people experience only minor symptoms from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. Some, particularly the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, can become extremely ill. The virus is highly contagious and can be spread by individuals who do not have visible symptoms. It can also survive on hard surfaces.
More than 240,000 people have been infected worldwide. More than 10,000 have died, while around 85,000 have recovered.
Israel has reported more than 700 confirmed cases despite imposing strict travel bans and quarantine measures more than two weeks ago. Authorities recently ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses and urged people to work from home.
The Cabinet has even authorized the Shin Bet internal security agency to use sophisticated phone-tracking technology to retrace the movements of infected people and identify those they came into contact with. Israel has previously only used such technology against suspected Palestinian militants.
Tel Aviv, with its tech-driven prosperity and laid-back Mediterranean vibe, often feels worlds away from Israel’s conflicts with its neighbors, but no place seems to have been spared from the global pandemic.