The final Israelis in Myanmar began making their way home with the Foreign Ministry's help on Wednesday, as most flights were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Israeli Embassy to Myanmar and other Israeli consuls in Asia worked together to find get the backpackers on some of the final flights out of the country.
Israeli Ambassador to Myanmar Ronen Gil-Or said he "worked intensively in recent days to help dozens of Israeli tourists to leave the beautiful hikes in Burma and return to Israel in light of the coronavirus outbreak in Myanmar.
The backpackers’ flights included a stopover in Bangkok, after the Foreign Ministry negotiated with the Thai government to allow Israelis to pass through without visas or the required health certificates.
Gil-Or said the embassy is also working on humanitarian aid for weaker populations in Myanmar, buying food, clothing, medicine and vitamins for the elderly and disabled.
The Israeli Embassy in Bangkok said they do not expect there to be more flights from Thailand after March 31 and called on Israelis to return.
Half of the 6000 Israelis that asked the Foreign Ministry for help in recent weeks have already returned, including about 1,000 from India, 1,000 from Peru, hundreds from Australia, Brazil and Mexico and about 100 each from Nepal and Myanmar. Over 1,000 Israeli students returned from Eastern Europe.
The Foreign Ministry emphasized the “mutual responsibility and effort the State of Israel makes to help its sons and daughters return home at this time of the worldwide coronavirus crisis.”
A special El Al flight evacuated 150 Israeli backpackers from Bogota, Colombia on Wednesday, and they will land in Tel Aviv on Thursday morning. The passengers will pay a regular ticket price and the government will cover additional costs.
Another 200 Israelis are expected to return from Budapest, Hungary on a special Arkia flight on Thursday. The Chabad affiliated EMIH Hungarian-Jewish Association coordinated the flight with the Foreign Ministry.
Most of the passengers are Israelis studying in Hungary and workers at a kosher slaughterhouse who commute between the countries. One Israeli medical student in Budapest, Yoav Leibowitz, is a Magen David Adom-trained paramedic who hopes to provide medical services after his mandatory quarantine period.
"I am committed and intend to enlist myself back into the MDA services and to provide assistance at this most difficult time," Leibowitz said.
Several foreign nationals stranded in Israel will be aboard the flight to Budapest en route to their homes in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Croatia.
On Tuesday, the first-ever direct commercial flight from Australia to Israel departed with about 230 Israelis aboard. The special flight came as Australia planned to close its borders to foreigners. The El Al flight sold out 15 minutes after it was announced.