The coronavirus continues to wreak havoc as a third Israeli aboard the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama port in Japan, was confirmed to have contracted the virus on Sunday evening.
Earlier on Sunday, Japan’s Health Ministry announced that two Israelis, a married couple, tested positive for the virus. All three Israelis have been transferred to local Japanese hospitals for medical treatment.
Also, on Sunday, Israel’s Health Ministry announced that Israelis returning from trips to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau will be required to self-quarantine at home for two weeks and according to a Channel 12 News report, anyone violating the quarantine period could receive a prison sentence of up to seven days.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry was apparently not pleased with the Health Ministry’s directives, and ministry sources said that other countries haven’t taken such extreme measures and the Health Ministry is causing unnecessary panic as well as diplomatic fallout.
El Al, which is the only airline with a direct Tel Aviv-Bangkok flights, has announced that it is canceling half of its round-trip flights to Bangkok. Since there are thousands of Israelis who are currently in Bangkok, it is not stopping flights to the popular destination altogether.
Thailand’s Health Ministry announced on Monday morning that a woman tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of people in the country diagnosed with the virus to 35.
Jerusalem Chief Rabbi, Harav Shlomo Amar, who is currently in Singapore on a chizuk visit to the Jewish community, is one of the hundreds of Israelis who will be required to remain in quarantine. Rav Amar is returning to Israel on Thursday.
Singapore’s government recently relocated an ancient Jewish cemetery, transferring the bones of the deceased from one location to another. Harav Amar visited the cemetery and carried out a special tikun for the neshamos of the niftarim who were transferred, Kikar H’Shabbos reported.
“The Rishon L’Tzion is currently on a chizuk trip to the Torah community in Singapore,” Harav Amar’s office stated. “The Rav will consult with the relevant parties ahead of his return at the end of the week and he will act according to whatever he is instructed. ‘V’nishmartem meod l’nafshoseichem’ is obligatory, not a recommendation.”
Health Ministry Deputy Director Itamar Grotto, who was sent to Japan by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, held a meeting on Monday with the Israeli ambassador to Japan and senior Japanese Health Ministry officials.
Grotto told Channel 12 News on Sunday night that the remaining 12 Israeli passengers are being tested and anyone who has not contracted the virus will be able to leave the ship. He believes that the Israelis will return to Israel on a direct flight funded by their insurance companies.
The Israelis will then be hospitalized in an isolation unit at Sheba Medical Center, where a medical staff dedicated exclusively to the unit will tend to them. The pilot of the flight will undergo medical testing but will not be quarantined.
The Diamond Princess ship has the largest outbreak of people infected with the coronavirus outside of China. There were 99 people aboard the ship newly diagnosed with the virus on Monday, raising the total number of people aboard the ship who contracted the virus to 454.
Meanwhile, the United States evacuated its citizens aboard the ship on chartered flights back to the US, sparking resentment among Israeli relatives of the Israelis aboard the ship, who cannot leave the ship until Wednesday, when the official quarantine period ends.
Two charter flights carrying cruise ship passengers from Japan landed at military bases in California and Texas overnight. Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono had tweeted earlier that Japanese troops helped transport 340 U.S. passengers on 14 buses from Yokohama port to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship.
In the course of the testing carried out for the American passengers before they left the ship, 14 passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. The State Department announced later that the 14 passengers were allowed to board the flight because they did not have symptoms. They were being isolated separately from other passengers on the flight, the U.S. State and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.
After arriving in the U.S., all of the passengers must go through another 14 days of quarantine at the military facilities — meaning they will have been under quarantine for a total of nearly four weeks.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)
The foreign ministry concerns regarding “diplomatic” fallout are legit but public health concerns should always take priority. There is no reason the Rav cannot “telecommute” for 2 weeks during his quarantine and it also highlights the importance of applying the rules evenly, with no VIP exceptions.