Airport worker infected with coronavirus in serious condition

60-year-old patient sedated and hooked up to a respirator at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv; had initially been refused testing

Illustrative: An ambulance carrying a patient displaying symptoms of the coronavirus, as the vehicle arrives at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on February 28, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Illustrative: An ambulance carrying a patient displaying symptoms of the coronavirus, as the vehicle arrives at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on February 28, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The condition of an Israeli man infected with the coronavirus deteriorated on Wednesday.

Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv said the patient, a 60-year-old worker at Ben Gurion Airport, was in serious condition, under sedation and hooked up to a respirator.

He was the second person in Israel with COVID-19 to be listed in serious condition. The other is a bus driver hospitalized in northern Israel who transported a group of Greek tourists who tested positive for the virus after returning home; his condition is now said to be stable.

The airport worker had not been abroad or in knowing contact with anyone carrying the virus, and so health authorities initially declined to test him for coronavirus.

He was initially admitted to Ichilov Hospital on Sunday with flu-like symptoms, but was released the next day without testing for the virus, even though he pleaded to be tested, his family said.

The man was only finally tested for the coronavirus on Tuesday when he was readmitted with pneumonia. He had not been in isolation before then, including at the hospital.

“I implored them to test him for corona[virus]” when he was first admitted, his wife told Army Radio. “I was worried he was going to infect half the hospital.”

Hospital beds in Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, February 27, 2012. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

According to current protocols, testing is only carried out on those who have traveled abroad or knowingly been in contact with someone carrying the virus; it is unknown how the man contracted it, but his relatives said they stressed to hospital staff that he works at the airport.

The Israel Airports Authority said the employee had not been at any of their facilities for the past 10 days, but workers who came into contact with him at that time have been told to go into quarantine.

Including the airport worker, Israeli announced 12 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total in the country to 82.

As part of measures to fight the virus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday that public events in closed areas with over 100 people would be banned.

People wear face masks arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

Israel has also introduced limitations for hospital and retirement home visits to reduce the risk to vulnerable populations like the sick and elderly.

To curb the spread of the virus in the country, all Israelis returning from overseas are required to quarantine at home for 14 days. Non-Israeli nationals will be allowed into the country until Thursday at 8 p.m., but after that they will be barred entry unless they can demonstrate an ability to self-quarantine for two weeks.

The quarantine measures are among the most dramatic to be introduced by any nation in the intensifying battle against the coronavirus. On February 26, Israel had become the first country in the world to advise its citizens against all non-essential overseas travel.

Worldwide, there have been over 118,000 confirmed cases of the virus and nearly 3,000 deaths.

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