Three people who have recently returned to Israel from China were quarantined out of fear that they may have contracted a deadly virus that has killed 41 people in mainland China and infected 1,300 others.
Two have been cleared of suspicion that they contracted the virus, and are due to be released soon. Another patient, a Chinese tourist, is hospitalized in the West Bank. It has yet to be ruled out that she is suffering from the virus.
The new virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever and, in more severe case, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal.
A third patient, a Chinese tourist being treated in Beit Jala Hospital in the West Bank is still in quarantine.
The city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started and its 11 million residents are already on lockdown, banned most vehicle including private cars in downtown areas starting Sunday, state media reported. Only authorized vehicles to carry supplies and for other needs would be permitted after that, the reports said.
The vast majority of the infections and all the deaths have been in mainland China, but fresh cases are popping up. Australia and Malaysia reported their first cases Saturday and Japan, its third. France confirmed three cases Friday, the first in Europe, and the U.S. identified its second, a woman in Chicago who had returned from China.
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China cut off trains, planes and other links to Wuhan on Wednesday, as well as public transportation within the city, and has steadily expanded a lockdown to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million, greater than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined.
The National Health Commission reported a jump in the number of infected people to 1,287. The latest tally, from 29 provinces and cities across China, included 237 patients in serious condition. Of the 41 deaths, 39 have been in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital city, and one each in Hebei and Heilongjiang provinces.
Most of the deaths have been older patients, though a 36-year-old man in Hubei died earlier this week.
Health authorities in the city of Hechi in Guangxi province said that a 2-year-old girl from Wuhan had been diagnosed with the illness after arriving in the city.
In Hong Kong, where five cases of the illness have been confirmed, a marathon that was expected to draw 70,000 participants on February 9 was canceled, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.
The Australian state of Victoria announced its first case Saturday, a Chinese man in his 50s who returned from China last week, and the state of New South Wales confirmed three more cases later in the day.
Malaysia said three people tested positive Friday, all relatives of a father and son from Wuhan who had been diagnosed with the virus earlier in neighboring Singapore. It said a fourth case was a traveler from Wuhan who tested positive Saturday and was unrelated to the other cases.
Japan confirmed a third case, a Chinese tourist in her 30s who had arrived from Wuhan on Jan 18.
The National Health Commission said it is bringing in medical teams from outside Hubei to help handle the outbreak, a day after videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for examinations and complaints that family members had been turned away at hospitals that were at capacity.