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Israel Hit by Coronavirus Fears

Analysts Weigh in With Risks and Highlights

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24 Feb 2020
Israel Hit by Coronavirus Fears
Officials were warning against panic on Monday following a weekend which saw the COVID-19 Coronavirus show up in Israel and several neighbouring countries as well. At press time there were two confirmed cases in Israel, both of whom had recently returned from the Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored off Japan and both of whom are in medical quarantine at to Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. In related news, a group of South Korean tourists who had been in Israel earlier this month returned home to discover that some of their group tested positive for the virus, leading to fears that they had caught it during their trip to Israel .

Several hundred South Korean tourists in the country have been quarantined and will soon be returning home. Several hundred Israelis who were in contact with the group which included infected persons have also been quarantined and the government has announced that it is barring entry to Israel from citizens of South Korea and Japan.

Magen David Adom set up a hotline for Israelis who were worried that they might have been infected, with several hundred calls already having been received. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Israelis are also self-quarantining for fear of spreading the illness to their co-workers and friends. The government requires that Israeli citizens returning from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Italy and Thailand self-quarantine for 14 days following the day they left those countries. People arriving from a number of other countries are advised to keep a close watch on their medical condition for at least 14 days after returning.

“We are prepared to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an emergency meeting at the Health Ministry in Tel Aviv Sunday. “We are conducting assessments every day and I will appoint a team of ministers to meet on a daily basis to address this major challenge…I said that over-preparation is better than lack of preparation. To date, Israel has been more stringent than any other country, and we will continue to do what is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus in Israel.”

In addition, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan issued a statement on Sunday that "I have instructed the police to prepare for a situation in which the coronavirus could disrupt the coming elections, even in the form of fake news being spread that could cause panic in some areas, causing some to stay home on election day."

The Israel Airport Authority also announced a hiring freeze and other austerity measures over the weekend while the Education Ministry cancelled 29 upcoming school trips to the Holocaust-related sites in Poland. Other disruptions to Israel’s near-term public schedule as a result of the crisis are considered highly likely.

Here is a video which gives some professional analysis of the coronavirus crisis

 

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