2 more Israelis diagnosed with coronavirus, bringing number of sick to 12
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2 more Israelis diagnosed with coronavirus, bringing number of sick to 12

Health Ministry says the two were recently in Italy, where there has been an outbreak of the virus; will publish info on what flights they took, where they visited after returning

Illustrative: An ambulance, carrying an Israeli woman returning from Italy who displayed symptoms of the coronavirus, arrives at the infectious disease unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on February 28, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Illustrative: An ambulance, carrying an Israeli woman returning from Italy who displayed symptoms of the coronavirus, arrives at the infectious disease unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on February 28, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Health Ministry on Monday announced two more Israelis had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to 12.

Both Israelis were recently in Italy, where there has been a significant outbreak of the virus.

“The patients are under quarantine,” the ministry said in a statement.

One of the Israelis, from the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, returned from Italy on February 25. The other, a resident of the southern coastal city of Ashdod, landed in Israel on a flight from Italy the following day.

The ministry said it would soon publish the details of an epidemiological probe on which flights the two traveled on and where in Israel they visited after their return.

The announcement from the Health Ministry came as Israelis were casting their votes in elections for the Knesset.

An Israeli woman arrives to vote at a polling station in the northern city of Haifa for people under home quarantine, March 2, 2020. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

There was concerns going into the elections that fears over the virus could put a damper on voter enthusiasm, but voting rates published by the Central Elections Committee showed the highest turnout in years.

Special polling stations were set up across the country for the 5,630 voters under home quarantine. By the time those polling stations closed at 6:45 p.m., 4,073 of those people had cast their ballots.

Hours before voting started, the Health Ministry announced three more cases of the virus.

The ministry said two of those diagnosed were members of one family who had returned to Israel from Italy on Thursday and live in a community in southern Israel. The other was a soldier who works at the Red Pirate toy store in Or Yehuda, where another worker was diagnosed with the virus last week after returning from Italy.

Israel has taken far-reaching steps to prevent an outbreak, banning entry to foreigners who were in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Italy in the 14 days prior to arriving, and compelling all Israelis recently in those areas to self-quarantine for 14 days.

In a dramatic statement last week, the Health Ministry urged Israelis to seriously consider refraining from traveling abroad.

People wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus at the Ben Gurion International Airport on February 27, 2020 (Flash90)

Israel is the first country to urge its citizens to refrain from international travel entirely because of the outbreak, which started in China in December and has since infected over 88,000 worldwide and claimed over 3,000 lives, almost all of them in China.

The Health Ministry has faced criticism for its extreme measures, with some saying it is unnecessarily panicking people and causing economic and diplomatic damage to the country. Ministry officials have said they prefer to take a strict line than be sorry later.

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