Israel Suspends All Flights From China, Isolates Arrivals Over Coronavirus Outbreak

Israel's health minister makes the announcement after El Al Airlines said it is suspending its flights to Beijing until March, with death toll in China at 170

A woman wearing a face mask uses her cellphone as she walks outside Beijing Railway Station as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing, China January 30, 2020.
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Israel is not allowing flights from China to enter the country until further notice, and all travelers coming back from China will be put in isolation at home for two weeks in light of the coronavirus outbreak, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said on Thursday.

Earlier, El Al Israel Airlines said that it is suspending its flights between Tel Aviv and Beijing until March 25, but will operate flight on Thursday of this week from the Chinese capital to Israel as scheduled. 

As of late Wednesday, the death toll from the virus had risen to 170 in China and had infected more than 7,700 people there. Infections from the coronavirus have been reported in at least 15 other countries, with 104 confirmed cases, but no deaths have occurred outside China.

In suspending service on its Beiing route, El Al is following the lead of other airlines that have suspended or scaled back flights to China as a result of the spread of the virus, which has reportedly affected areas of the country beyond where it originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. El Al’s flights to Hong Kong continue to operate. 

China’s Hainan Airlines has also announced the suspension of most of its international flights. That includes its flights between Beijing and Tel Aviv, which, at this point, are being cancelled from next Monday through March 28. Hainan will continue operating its weekly flights between Ben-Gurion airport and the Chinese city of Shenzhen. 

At the beginning of the week, the Israeli Health Ministry recommended avoiding all “non-essential” travel to China and entirely avoiding the province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located. The ministry is advising anyone who has visited China and comes down with a fever and cough during their travels or within two weeks of their return to seek immediate medical treatment at their local HMO clinic or an emergency room. The directive instructs anyone with breathing difficulties who has recently been in China to call ahead before going to an emergency room.

Reuters contributed to this report.

A test tube with the coronavirus.
Dado Ruvic/Reuters