Over 200 Israelis are in isolation as of Sunday morning due to contact with South Korean tourists who tested positive for the coronavirus in South Korea after returning from a tour of Israel.
Nineteen South Koreans who were on a week-long trip in Israel from February 8 -15 and were in contact with hundreds of Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus when they returned home, Israel’s Health Ministry said on Motzei Shabbos.
About 30 Beer Sheba eighth grade students who visited the Tel Be’er Sheva National Park last Thursday at the same time as the South Korean tourists were instructed to self-quarantine.
Two of the students’ teachers were also instructed to self-quarantine as well as the cleaning staff of the Jerusalem hotel where the tourists stayed.
Later on Motzei Shabbos, another 150 Israeli students and teachers who were at sites at the same time as the South Koreans were told to self-quarantine, including 60 eighth-graders from Haifa who were near the South Korean tour group at Masada as well as 90 students and 10 teachers and chaperones from a school in Afula and high school students from the Bedouin town of Keseifa in the Negev.
— almog boker (@bokeralmog) February 22, 2020
On Sunday morning, 12 Border Police officers who were in Me’aras Hamachpeila in Chevron at the same time of the South Korean tour group were instructed by their commanders to self-quarantine.
Additionally, 20 employees of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority who work in Masada, Caesarea and Tel Be’er Sheva National Parks and had contact with the South Korean tourists were instructed to self-quarantine.
In place of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman will hold an emergency meeting assessing the current situation in Israel regarding the coronavirus.
Magen David Adom opened a special hotline on Motzei Shabbos for Israelis who suspect they have contracted the coronavirus. Hundreds of calls were received within hours of its opening.
הערב (שבת), בהנחיית משרד הבריאות, פתח מדא מוקד מיוחד לטיפול באנשים החשודים כחולי קורונה. מפתיחת המוקד, התקבלו מאות פניות של אזרחים בנושא הקורונה במוקד 101 של מדא.#coronavirus#coronaviruses#StopCoronaVirus pic.twitter.com/cjCpcbdlmp
— מגן דוד אדום (@mda_israel) February 22, 2020
Any Israelis with symptoms such as a cough or fever or anyone who has been in contact with a coronavirus patient should call the Magen Dovid Emergency Call center on the 101 hotline.
According to the patient’s reported symptoms, an ambulance will be sent to evacuate the patient to the hospital or a paramedic will be sent to the patient’s home to take a test, leaving the patient at home until test results are received.
Professor Eyal Leshem, a an expert on infectious diseases told Channel 12 News on Motzei Shabbos that the fact that a group of South Koreans were carrying the virus while touring Israel is “very worrisome” – because unlike the Israelis from the cruise ship who are under complete isolation and are being constantly monitored at Sheba Medical Center – “these people were exposed to a wide population around Israel. Based on our experience, this virus seems highly contagious and therefore there is a significant risk that there are infections in the country.”
The Health Ministry published a list of the places the tourists visited, including Jerusalem, Beer Sheba, Netanya, Chevron, Yam Hamelech, the Kinneret, Caesaria, and Nazareth. They also visited areas in Yehudah and Shomron controlled by the Palestinian Authority including Shechem, Yericho, Beit Lechem and [Arab] Chevron.
About 200 South Koreans who landed on a Korean Air flight in Israel on Motzei Shabbos were denied entry into the country. The 12 Israelis on the plane were transferred to ambulances and driven to their homes with instructions to self-quarantine for two weeks.
All flights to and from Seoul have been canceled for the time being. About 1,000 South Korean tourists who are currently in Israel have been instructed to remain in their hotel rooms.
Health Ministry director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov announced on Motzei Shabbos that Israelis returning from South Korea and Japan will now be required to self-quarantine for two weeks, a rule already in place for Israelis arriving from China, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.
Meanwhile, South Korea reported 123 new coronavirus cases on Sunday morning, raising the number of total cases in the country to 556 and a fourth fatality from the virus, the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (KCDC).
South Korea reported an eight-fold jump in viral infections Saturday with more than 400 cases mostly linked to a church and a hospital, while the death toll in Iran climbed to six and a dozen towns in Italy effectively went into lockdowns as health officials around the world battle a new virus that has spread from China.
Some virus clusters have shown no direct link to travel to China. The spread in Italy prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to order schools, businesses, and restaurants closed and to cancel sporting events and Masses. Hundreds of residents and workers who came into contact with an estimated 54 people confirmed infected in Italy were in isolation pending test results. Two people infected with the virus have died.
South Korea has reported 433 cases and its third death from the virus, a man in his 40s who was found dead at home and posthumously tested positive. There’s concern that the country’s death toll could grow.
In and around South Korea’s fourth-largest city, Daegu, health workers scrambled to screen thousands. Virus patients with signs of pneumonia or other serious conditions at the Cheongdo hospital were transferred to other facilities, 17 of them in critical condition, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters.
He said that the outbreak had entered a serious new phase, but still expressed cautious optimism that it can be contained to the region surrounding Daegu, where the first case was reported on Tuesday.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)