The Health Ministry on Saturday called for anyone to self-quarantine who was in close proximity to two Israelis who tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting Italy.
The ministry said one of the men landed in Israel on February 22 at 6 p.m. on Easyjet flight U24849 from Naples and on Tuesday was at the Shufersal supermarket in the industrial area of the northern city of Migdal Haemek beteen 5 and 6 p.m.
On Thursday, he visited the Ha’achuza restaurant in Afula between 2 and 3:30 p.m.
“Whoever was on the aforementioned flight as well as at the time and places noted for 15 minutes or more must immediately enter into home quarantine for 14 days,” the ministry said.
The second Israeli returned to the country on February 22 at 3 a.m. on Alitalia flight AZ810 from Rome’s Fiumicino airport. He stopped at 6:30 that morning for 30 minutes at the Aroma coffee chain at the House of Pancakes gas station on Route 2.
Later that day, he stopped by an electronic goods store in the northern village of Sheikh Danun and a sporting goods store in Kiryat Ata between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
He was also at the Hummus Parliament restaurant at a Paz gas station in the northern coastal city of Nahariya between 11:30 a.m. and noon on Sunday.
The ministry said anyone who was on the flight with him or at those locations during those times must self-quarantine for two weeks.
The two were among four Israelis who tested positive for the virus between Thursday and Friday evenings, more than doubling the number of cases in the country from three.
Another Israeli passenger from a cruise ship hit by the coronavirus was diagnosed as a carrier of the pathogen Friday, hours after landing in the country on a commercial flight after being released from hospitalization in Japan.
It was not immediately clear why the man had been released while still carrying the virus. Media reports said he had been cleared by officials there as healthy.
The man returned to Israel on two Turkish Airlines flights via Istanbul. The Health Ministry instructed all passengers on the man’s flight that landed in Tel Aviv Friday morning, TK784, to self-quarantine for 14 days.
He was one of four Israelis who were held in Japan after being diagnosed with the virus. Two others have since been cleared and returned to Israel while one remains hospitalized.
Eleven other Israelis who were on the cruise ship were returned to Israel on a private jet after their tests for the virus came back negative, and were placed in quarantine at Sheba Medical Center. Two of the returnees have since tested positive for the virus.
The wife of a third man who returned from Italy days ago and tested positive for the virus, Meir Cohen, was also diagnosed with COVID-19 Friday. She has been hospitalized at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer where she is reported to be in good condition.
The case was the first known person-to-person instance of the virus spreading in Israel. Cohen was the first case of an Israeli having the deadly coronavirus who had not already been in quarantine.
Cohen on Friday evening told Channel 12 from his quarantine at Sheba Medical Center that “On Tuesday evening I started to feel a bit of a fever, a little dizziness, headaches. I just thought I had the flu.”
Cohen was provided with wine and challah bread by the hospital for Shabbat. He said doctors communicated with him via robots and video calls on a tablet.
“Everything is like ‘Back to the Future’ here,” he joked.
The ministry has a web page 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.
After 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.
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 83,000 worldwide and claimed over 2,800 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. Ministry officials have said they prefer to take a strict line than be sorry later.