The Health Ministry on Thursday ordered passengers who were on the same flight as an Israeli who tested positive for the COVID-19 disease after returning from Italy to immediately put themselves into a self-imposed quarantine for 14 days.
The man was the first case of an Israeli having the deadly coronavirus who hasn’t already been in quarantine.
Amid fears he may have infected others, the ministry traced his movements since returning to the country Sunday on El Al flight LY382 from Milan. It found he had also been at the Red Pirate toy store in Or Yehuda between 9 and 10 a.m.
The ministry said anyone who was on the flight, or in the shop during those specific hours, must “immediately put themselves in home quarantine for 14 days and register on the Health Ministry website.”
There is a ministry webpage where members of the public can register that they have self-quarantined. There is also a hotline, at *5400, that can be used for the same purpose.
“If during the course of the quarantine symptoms of fever, coughing, or difficulty breathing appear” the person should immediately call emergency services, the statement said.
Although the man’s name has been withheld from publication, authorities allowed media to report that he lives in Irus, a community in the Gan Raveh Regional Council, located in the central region of the country.
The man had contacted medical services after he began to feel ill, was tested for the virus and found to be infected. He was quarantined Thursday at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, along with the Israeli passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was moored off the coast of Japan after the virus spread among those on board. Two of those passengers also tested positive for the virus after they had already been quarantined in Israel.
The man’s wife told Channel 12 that “he feels fine, really just a light flu.” She said the entire family is now in quarantine at home and feels well.
Galia Barkai, the doctor treating the new patient at Sheba Medical Center, told Channel 12 news that the man was brought by the Magen Dovid Adom ambulance service directly to the hospital’s quarantine compound and did not pass through any public hospital areas, either at the center or elsewhere.
Barkai said that when the patient first arrived he was given medication to lower his fever by a medical team wearing protective gear.
“When we saw that his condition was stable and good he was put into his room,” she said. “He seems okay, he understands the situation and is communicating with us” via remote means.
Following the discovery of the man’s infection, the Interior Ministry banned entry to all non-Israelis arriving in the country from Italy. Israelis coming from Italy will be allowed in but are already required to be quarantined at home for two weeks.
Following the decision, dozens of foreign nationals who had landed on flights from Italy were denied entry.
Israel has taken far-reaching steps to prevent an outbreak, banning entry to foreigners who were also in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Japan in the 14 days prior to arriving, and compelling all Israelis recently in these areas to self-quarantine for 14 days.
In a dramatic statement Wednesday, the Health Ministry urged Israelis to seriously consider refraining from traveling abroad.
“If you don’t genuinely have to fly, don’t do so,” the ministry said in a travel warning.
Overnight Wednesday a Kfar Saba resident, 40, who recently returned from Thailand, was arrested for breaking the quarantine when he went to visit his wife’s parents’ home, where his family were apparently staying, the Ynet news site reported.
Police were called after he threatened to kill his wife because she opened an Instagram account, according to the report.
The man was arrested but told officers he broke the quarantine after ten days alone because he missed his infant son. He was sent to the prison service medical center to be kept in quarantine.
During a remand hearing at the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court, police asked to extend his arrest by five days. During proceedings his attorney, from the public defender’s office, told the court the suspect was not able to attend the hearing due to the circumstances and that he had not been able to speak with him, Ynet reported.
The court ordered the man immediately released and criticized police for not being better prepared for such a scenario.
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 80,000 worldwide and claimed well over 2,500 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.