Education minister said to ban high schoolers’ trips to Poland over virus fears
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Education minister said to ban high schoolers’ trips to Poland over virus fears

Rafi Peretz reportedly makes decision without consulting his ministry’s officials; there have been no reports of illness in the European nation

Rafi Peretz, leader of the Jewish Home party, in Petah Tikva, February 20, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Rafi Peretz, leader of the Jewish Home party, in Petah Tikva, February 20, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Education Minister Rafi Peretz is planning to halt Israeli high school students’ educational trips to historical Holocaust sites in Poland due to the global spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to several reports Sunday.

According Channel 12 news, Peretz said he was doing so according to the recommendations of the Health Ministry.

But the Ynet new site reported that Education Ministry officials were not consulted on the decision and were caught by surprise.

Poland has yet to report any cases of the disease.

Tens of thousands of Israeli high school students visit Poland every year to learn about the history of the Holocaust. The students visit Nazi sites associated with the genocide of European Jewry such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp site, and are often accompanied by survivors who recount their stories.

High school students participate in the March of the Living at Auschwitz in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Peretz’s reported decision came as some 200 Israeli students and teachers were instructed to enter isolation Saturday due to contact with a group of South Korean pilgrims who later were found to have contracted the disease.

The move came after South Korea informed Israel that 18 members of the group who toured Israel and the West Bank for a week this month tested positive for the new virus. The tourists were diagnosed upon returning home. It is not clear whether the Korean tourists were already infected while in Israel.

Israel has responded severely to the threat posed by the disease, banning the entry of any foreigners who have been to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and Singapore in the past 14 days. On Sunday it said South Korea and Japan would be added to that list.

The only confirmed case of coronavirus in Israel is that of a woman who was quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan before being flown home after a test showed her to be clear of the pathogen. All 11 Israelis who returned to Israel from the Diamon Princess, where hundreds fell ill from the virus, are currently under quarantine.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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