El Al Cancels All Flights To China Due To Coronavirus; 6,000 In Lockdown On Cruise Ship In Italy


El Al Airlines announced on Thursday that it is halting all flights to China until March 25 due to the outbreak of the quickly spreading coronavirus.

The decision was apparently made after El Al employees refused to staff flights to the country where over 170 people have died from the virus and over 7,700 people have been infected, Calcalist reported.

El Al will continue their flights to Hong Kong and other airline companies that fly from Israel to China are continuing their service for now.

Meanwhile, later on Thursday, a 25-year-old woman was forcibly hospitalized and quarantined at Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer due to fear she’s been infected with the coronavirus, Channel 13 News reported.

The health ministry of the United Arab Emirates stated on Wednesday that a family of four from Wuhan who was vacationing in the UAE have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, the first confirmed cases of the virus in the Middle East.

The Director-General of the Ministry of Health Moshe Bar Siman-Tov and all senior officials of the Israeli health system held a special meeting on Wednesday evening with the staff of the epidemic treatment team during which they concluded that the arrival of the coronavirus in Israel is just a matter of time. The ministry also stated that it was considering asking Israelis who visited China in recent days to quarantine themselves for a few days after their return to Israel even if they have no signs of illness.

Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Prof. Itamar Grotto, said on Army Radio: “There’s no reason why we won’t see cases of the virus in Israel too. It’s inevitable – we cannot hermetically seal the country. We are trying to reduce the chances of the epidemic spreading here.”

“Our intention is to contain it by quickly diagnosing the patients and isolating them to prevent it from spreading.”

British Airways announced on Wednesday that it has suspended all flights to and from China, the largest airline to do so to date.

Meanwhile, more than 6,000 passengers are trapped on an Italian cruise ship after a woman fell ill with a suspected case of the deadly coronavirus. The Costa Smeralda vessel is currently being held near Civitavecchia, 35 miles of Rome, after a Chinese woman, 54, began displaying symptoms of the virus. The woman and her husband – who is not believed to have symptoms – were immediately placed in solitary confinement and have been tested for the coronavirus, Corriere della Sera reports. The individual, who has not been identified, is said to have contacted medics on board on Wednesday night, saying she had a temperature and was suffering respiratory problems. The test results are due this afternoon, with at least 6,000 other passengers banned from leaving the docked vessel until they come back.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)