Foreigners barred from Tel Aviv marathon amid coronavirus fears
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Foreigners barred from Tel Aviv marathon amid coronavirus fears

Municipality says it is following Health Ministry instructions, will only permit the 40,000 local participants to run; athletes from abroad will be reimbursed

Illustrative: Runners take part in a marathon in Israel's coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 24, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: Runners take part in a marathon in Israel's coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 24, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Tel Aviv municipality on Sunday said it would not allow athletes from abroad to participate in the city’s marathon on Friday over fears of a coronavirus outbreak at the event.

The municipality said in a statement that the 40,000 local runners who have signed up will be allowed to take part in Friday’s contest, as planned. Those who were planning on coming from abroad to run the marathon will be reimbursed.

The city said it was following Health Ministry directives.

Israel has taken far-reaching steps to prevent an outbreak, including banning entry into the country to foreigners who recently visited China and a handful of East Asian countries, and forcing Israelis who visited the areas in the past 14 days into a two-week home quarantine.

Israel has confirmed two cases of coronavirus on its soil. Both were infected while passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan, and were brought back into the country last week and placed in a hospital quarantine along with nine other Israelis who were aboard the virus-struck ship.

Over the weekend, South Korea said that some of it nationals who had recently been in the Jewish state were found to be infected when they returned home, sparking panic and additional precautionary measures.

Workers inside a building at Sheba Medical Center which was converted to receive the Israelis who were under quarantine on the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan due to the spread of the coronavirus, and arriving in Israel tonight, February 20, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The announcement sent hundreds of Israelis who were in proximity to the travelers into home quarantine. Some 200 Israeli students and teachers were instructed to enter isolation due to being in several tourist sites at the same time as the group.

On Sunday, the Health Ministry told the Education Ministry that it should suspend all Israeli high school students’ educational trips to historical Holocaust sites in Poland, due to the global spread of the virus.

“Since the coronavirus is continuing to spread across the world, including to the European continent, and for the sake of preventative caution, it is appropriate at this time to suspend trips of students to Poland until the situation has become clear,” Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov wrote Sunday to his Education Ministry counterpart Shmuel Abuav.

Bar Siman-Tov said the Health Ministry will continue to monitor and assess the situation while keeping the Education Ministry informed of developments. Poland has yet to report any cases of the disease.

Market workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant at a market in the southeastern city of Daegu, South Korea, on February 23, 2020, as a preventive measure after the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (YONHAP / AFP)

While the number of patients worldwide is increasing, some virus clusters have shown no link to China and experts are struggling to trace where those clusters started.

The Iranian health ministry said there were now 43 confirmed cases in Iran, which did not report its first case of the virus until Wednesday.

The virus has also gained a foothold in Italy, whose northern Lombardy region, which includes the nation’s financial capital Milan, now counts 89 confirmed cases of infection. Italy as a whole now has 132 cases, including two deaths.

The coronavirus, known officially as COVID-19, began in China in December. Since then it has killed over 2,400 people in that country and tens of thousands have become infected.

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