Health Ministry Calls on Israelis to Reconsider All Trips Abroad Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

'The situation assessment shows a high likelihood that the disease has spread in other regions of Europe and many other places in the world,' ministry says

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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People wearing masks at Ben-Gurion airport.
People wearing masks at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Feb. 22, 2020.Credit: Bea Bar Kallos
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel's Health Ministry called on Israelis Wednesday not to fly to Italy due to the coronavirus outbreak, urging its citizens "to reconsider the necessity of flights abroad in general, beyond the obligated isolation upon return from specific countries."

The ministry also stated that it will require all Israelis who returned from Italy since February 27 to be quarantined in home isolation for two weeks.

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"The situation assessment shows a high likelihood that the disease has spread in other regions of Europe and many other places in the world," the ministry said, adding that "traveling to conferences and other international congregations, including trips to religious events where people from many countries meet, should also be avoided. Additionally, international conferences to be held in Israel should be avoided."

According to Dr. Boaz Lev, who heads the epidemic treatment division in the Health Ministry, the situation is emerging into a pandemic: a state of rapid spread, including local spread.

The new guidelines issued by the Health Ministry on Wednesday have broad economic implications. According to Lev, the priority of the decision makers is first and foremost public health and the protection of groups at increased risk, with emphasis on the elderly and those with prior illnesses and a weakened immune system.

The ministry's working assumption is that at some point the virus will reach Israel, but delaying its arrival and earning time to learn as much as possible about the virus and the disease it causes is still possible.

Ben-Gurion Airport has implemented no dramatic change in preparation, or any plans to increase the medical system through Magen David Adom or other medical entities. The signs displaying guidelines and instructions have been replaced with screens, and passengers are receiving text messages from the Health Ministry.

Amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus, which has so far infected over 80,000 people worldwide, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the government to open a national situation room, to convene daily.

The Health Ministry has called on all Israelis returning from Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and Japan to remain in isolation at home and to report to the ministry.

A second case of coronavirus was diagnosed in Israel when an additional passenger who returned from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan, tested positive for the virus. Hundreds of Israelis have been placed in quarantine after coming in contact with a Korean tourist group that included people diagnosed with coronavirus.

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