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3 more Israelis diagnosed with virus; said to include 9th grader, teacher

Dozens of students from 2 schools go into isolation; Health Ministry says one returned from Italy, while two others had been at a toy store in Or Yehuda where workers had virus

Workers disinfect a shop in Or Yehuda, after a man who works at the shop and returned from Italy tested positive for coronavirus, February 28, 2020.  (Flash90 )
Workers disinfect a shop in Or Yehuda, after a man who works at the shop and returned from Italy tested positive for coronavirus, February 28, 2020. (Flash90 )

The Health Ministry announced late Tuesday that three more Israelis had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to 15.

Hebrew media reported that one of those infected was a 9th grader at Brener High School in the center of the country, who had come into contact with an Israeli who returned from Italy with the coronavirus.

The school announced that studies were canceled for that grade on Wednesday, and that anyone who had been in contact with the student must go into isolation.

In addition, another person diagnosed with the virus was said to be a deputy principal and teacher at an elementary school in Kiryat Ono. The educator’s fifth grade students were also put into isolation.

Workers disinfect a shop in Or Yehuda, after a man who works at the shop and returned from Italy tested positive for coronavirus, February 28, 2020 (Flash90)

Of the three new patients, one recently returned from Italy, where there has been a significant outbreak of the virus, while two others had spent time in a toy shop where one of the workers was infected.

The Israeli traveler returned from Italy on February 29 and had been in self quarantine at home.

The ministry said it would soon publish the details of an epidemiological probe on which flight he had traveled on and where in Israel he had visited after his return.

One of the others worked at the Red Pirate toy store in Or Yehuda, where two other workers have been diagnosed with the virus after one of them returned last week from Italy.

The third person was a customer who spent more than 15 minutes in the store, the ministry said.

“The patients are under quarantine,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that they were suffering mild symptoms only.

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 month, 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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