Greek tourist who recently visited Israel dies of coronavirus
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Greek tourist who recently visited Israel dies of coronavirus

66-year-old man is first death in Greece from deadly virus; driver of his tour group hospitalized in serious condition in northern Israel

A worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant inside a citizen's service office in the Athens' eastern suburb of Dafni, March 9, 2020. The sign reads "Interior Ministry. Municipality of Dafni." (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)
A worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant inside a citizen's service office in the Athens' eastern suburb of Dafni, March 9, 2020. The sign reads "Interior Ministry. Municipality of Dafni." (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Greece on Thursday reported its first fatality from the coronavirus, saying a man who recently toured Israel and Egypt and was diagnosed after he returned home has died.

The man, 66, had underlying health issues, Greek health officials said.

Earlier this month, Greece informed Israeli authorities that 23 of its citizens who had taken a pilgrimage to Egypt and Israel were found to have COVID-19.

Last week, the 38-year-old bus driver who chauffeured the group of Greek tourists was confirmed to be infected. He arrived at Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Tiberias suffering from high fever and having trouble breathing, and was quickly placed in quarantine. The East Jerusalem resident became the country’s most serious patient with the disease, suffering from acute pneumonia and high fever.

Over the weekend, his condition deteriorated and he was unconscious and attached to a respirator. On Monday doctors reported that his condition had begun to stabilize.

A number of tourists from other countries — including the US — who recently visited Israel have been diagnosed with COVID-19 after they returned home. With each case, the Health Ministry has ordered those who came in contact with the tourists to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, center and Health minister Yaakov Litzman at a press conference about the coronavirus COVID-19, at the Prime Ministers office in Jerusalem on March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday that Israel is limiting public events in enclosed areas to 100 people as part of increasingly strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Netanyahu touted the restrictions Israel has introduced until now, saying they better positioned the Jewish state to deal with the virus than other countries which had not ordered such strictures. “In Israel our situation is better than in many states,” the premier said at a press conference.

Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, who also spoke, said Israel’s first priority in fighting the virus had been to close its borders to people bringing it in, and this had now been done with a blanket requirement for 14-days self-quarantine for all arrivals. Now, he went on, the imperative was to quickly identify those who are infected and prevent the spread of the virus.

The empty arrivals hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport, March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

The new restrictions were announced as the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic.

There have so far been at least 82 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel, many of them contracted by travelers who recently returned from abroad. There were 12 new confirmed cases in the country Wednesday.

Worldwide, there have been over 118,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and nearly 4,300 deaths.

To curb the spread of the virus in the country, all Israelis returning from overseas are required to remain in isolation 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.

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