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Israeli Who Visited Italy Tests Positive for Coronavirus; El Al Halts Flights to Italy, Thailand

Israelis returning from Italy to enter two-week quarantine ■ Pakistan closes schools, suspends flights to Iran ■ Two Israeli Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers released from Tokyo hospital

Travelers at Ben-Gurion International Airport wear surgical masks amid coronavirus spread, February 25, 2020.
Ofer Vaknin

>> LATEST UPDATES: Third Israeli tests positive for coronavirus in Israel; country issues mass quarantine

Israel's ready for corona - but not for women in powerHaaretz Weekly Ep. 65

An Israeli man on Thursday tested positive for coronavirus, the third overall in the country, as governments worldwide ramp up measures to battle a looming global pandemic.

For the first time, the number of infections outside China, the source of the outbreak, surpassed those appearing inside the country.

The coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed nearly 2,800, the majority in China. There have been 3,246 cases outside China, including 51 deaths, according to a Reuters tally. 

Many of the cases appearing in the Middle East have been linked to Iran, which has had 141 cases and 22 deaths, the most outside China.

7:50 P.M. Israel bars entry to Italian swimmers ahead of European Championships

Israel's Health Ministry denied entry to Italy's swimming delegation, preventing it from participating in the first round of the European Open Water Swimming Championships slated to take place in the southern city of Eilat on March 6-8. (Haaretz)

4:39 P.M. Israeli man detained after violating Health Ministry order to stay in quarantine

An Israeli man who returned from Thailand has has been detained after violating the order issued by the Health Ministry to stay in quarantine. A Petah Tikva court criticized the police for not allowing the man to meet his lawyers. (Haaretz)      

4:30 P.M. Israeli carrier El Al to suspend flights to Italy, Thailand

El Al announced it would suspend its flights to all destinations in Italy as of Friday, as well as to Thailand starting Monday, as toll of coronavirus cases rises in both countries.   

El Al also said the launching of a new flight route to Tokyo has been delayed. In addition, it extended the suspension of flights to Beijing and Hong Kong until May 5. (Haaretz)

4:19 P.M. Netanyahu calls on Israeli citizens with virus symptoms to get tested

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on all Israeli citizens who have developed coronavirus symptoms and have returned from aboard to get tested for the novel COVID-19.

"Israel's citizens, I ask for your cooperation. We will send Magen David paramedics to the homes of all those who returned from any country in the world and have developed coronavirus to get them tested for the virus. We are the first country in the world taking such measures. This innovation can halt the spread of the disease," Netanyahu said. (Haaretz)  

3:22 P.M. Iran cancels Friday prayers in Tehran amid virus outbreak, report says

Friday prayers have been canceled in Tehran and elsewhere in the Islamic Republic over the outbreak of new coronavirus, Semiofficial news agencies in Iran reported.

The news came Thursday as Iran drastically increased the number of confirmed cases of the virus by over 100 to 254, with 26 deaths. (The Associated Press) 

1:59 P.M. Two more people die from virus in Italy

Two more people have died in Italy from coronavirus, bringing the death toll from the worst outbreak of the disease yet seen in Europe to 14, the Civil Protection agency said in a statement on Thursday.

The agency chief, Angelo Borrelli, had earlier told reporters that officials were still seeking confirmation that coronavirus was responsible for the latest two deaths. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 528 from some 420 announced on Wednesday, the vast majority in northern Italy. (Reuters)
 

12:40 P.M. Number of dead from virus in Iran rises to 26 

Iran says the new coronavirus has killed 26 people amid 245 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic, a significant increase in the number of known cases.

Iran Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour gave the new toll on Thursday in a televised news conference. He said the large number in new cases came from more labs now testing for the virus.

He said there could be other large increases in the coming days. (The Associated Press)

12:36 P.M. Over 1,500 Israelis in quarantine

The Health Ministry reports that 1,533 Israelis are currently quarantined in their homes, including the 180 Israelis who began their isolation today. About a thousand people have been tested for coronavirus in Israel. (Ido Efrati)

12:24 P.M. Israeli who visited Italy tests positive for virus

An Israeli man who returned from Italy earlier this week tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus, the Health Ministry says. He will be placed under quarantine at the Sheba Medical Center in central Israel.

This is the first case of a patient who was diagnosed with the virus in Israel, and comes a day after the Health Ministry called on Israelis to avoid travel to Italy. (Ido Efrati and Lee Yaron)

11:50 A.M. Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights

Pakistan on Thursday shut schools in several areas and suspended flights to and from Iran to try to stop the spread of new coronavirus, after reporting its first cases of the infection, officials said.

The South Asian nation bordering China and Iran, both of which have been hit hard by the virus, reported its first two cases on Wednesday.

Pakistan's Civil Aviation said it was suspending all flight operations with Iran starting from Thursday evening till further notice. "We have decided to close the flights with Iran," the aviation's spokesman Sattar Khokhar told Reuters. (Reuters)

>> Read the full report

11:49 A.M. Israel bars visitors from Italy from entering

Interior Minister Arye Dery announces he intends to sign on Thursday a decree to ban visitors from Italy from entering Israel. This includes anyone traveling via Italy who does not hold Israeli citizenship.

According to the new directive, Israelis returning from Italy will be asked to remain under quarantine for 14 days.

Similar directives have also barred visitors from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Macao, Singapore, South Korea and Japan. (Lee Yaron)

11:45 A.M. Hajj organizers stop planning trips for Israeli Arabs

The Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and the organizing committee for pilgrimage trips to Israeli Muslims announce they freeze all planning of trips to Saudi Arabia's holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Most pilgrims plan to visit Islam's holiest sites in July. (Jack Khoury)

11:18 A.M. Head of Italy's Lombardy region in quarantine

The governor of the region of Lombardy, at the epicenter of Italy's coronavirus outbreak, has placed himself in quarantine after one of his staff came down with the disease.

Attilio Fontana, who has held repeated news conferences this past week to explain how his region is dealing with the flare-up, announced the news on Facebook late on Wednesday and videoed himself putting on a surgical face mask.

"For now I don't have any type of infection so I can continue to work ... but for two weeks I will try to live in a sort of self-isolation," he said on Facebook.

More than 300 people have tested positive over the past week for coronavirus in Lombardy, which is centered on Italy's financial capital Milan, and 10 people have died in the region. (Reuters)

10:42 A.M. Two Israelis discharged from Tokyo hospital

Two Israeli tourists who were hospitalized in Tokyo after staying on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan, where dozens of cases of the new virus had been identified, are discharged. (Ido Efrati)

09:08 A.M. Saudi Arabia halts travel to Islam's holiest sites

Saudi Arabia on Thursday halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over fears about a viral epidemic just months ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage, a move that came as the Mideast has over 240 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

The extraordinary decision by Saudi Arabia stops foreigners from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure the world's 1.8 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day.

The decision also affected travel to Prophet Muhammad's mosque in Medina. Authorities also suspended entry to the kingdom to those with tourist visas from nations affected by the new virus. (The Associated Press)

>> Read the full report

09:00 A.M. Iraq reports first coronavirus case in Baghdad

Iraq reported the first case of coronavirus in the capital Baghdad on Thursday, its sixth in total.

A man contracted the virus after a trip to Iran, the health ministry said in a statement. He was in "good health" in a Baghdad hospital, it added. (Reuters)

06:00 A.M. Foreign athletes barred from Tel Aviv Marathon

According to Health Ministry regulations, foreign athletes would not be allowed to run the Tel Aviv Marathon, planned for Friday morning.

Some 40,000 Israelis will participate in the marathon, which in recent years had become Israel's biggest international sporting event. (Haaretz)