The Health Ministry on Friday updated its procedures for travelers feeling unwell after returning from a number of countries in the past 14 days in light of the increase in the number of coronavirus cases.
In a statement, the ministry said that travelers returning to Israel from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Macau who have a fever, coughing or any other respiratory symptoms must seek medical help and go for testing.
In addition, anyone who has been in close contact with an individual confirmed to have the virus must also go for testing.
It was noted that the travelers must warn the medical center prior to their arrival. The patient must cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth and are asked to avoid using public transportation.
The coronavirus outbreak that began in China has infected more than 31,400 people globally. Hong Kong has had 22 cases, including one death. Macao has had 10 cases.
Japan on Friday reported 41 new cases of the coronavirus on a cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Yokohama harbor with about 3,700 people confined aboard, including Israeli passengers.
The Foreign Ministry said no Israelis have been diagnosed with the virus.
The announcement came as the death toll in mainland China rose to 636, including a doctor who got in trouble with authorities for sounding an early warning about the disease threat.
Following an online uproar over the government’s treatment of Dr. Li Wenliang, 34, the ruling Communist Party said it was sending an investigation team to “fully investigate relevant issues raised by the public” regarding the case.
Two docked cruise ships with thousands of passengers and crew members remained under 14-day quarantines in Hong Kong and Japan.
Before Friday’s 41 confirmed cases, 20 infected passengers were escorted off the Diamond Princess at Yokohama near Tokyo.
Eight to 14 Israelis are believed to be on the ship.
On Wednesday the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it has been in contact with families of those on board and is “monitoring the situation via the consul in Tokyo” and its department for Israelis abroad.
“To the best of our knowledge, the Israeli passengers are not among those suspected of having the disease,” the ministry said on Wednesday. “At the moment all the passengers are under the responsibility of the Japanese authorities and the ship’s company.”
Dr. Li had worked at a hospital in the epicenter of the outbreak in the central city of Wuhan. He was one of eight medical professionals in Wuhan who tried to warn colleagues and others when the government did not, writing on his Twitter-like Weibo account that on Dec. 3 he saw a test sample that indicated the presence of a coronavirus similar to SARS, which killed nearly 800 people in a 2002-2003 outbreak that the government initially tried to cover-up.
Li wrote that after he reported seven patients had contracted the virus, he was visited on Jan. 3 by police, who forced him to sign a statement admitting to having spread falsehoods and warning him of punishment if he continued.
A copy of the statement signed by Li and posted online accused him of making “false statements” and “seriously disturbing social order.”
“This is a type of illegal behavior!” the statement said.
Li wrote that he developed a cough on Jan. 10, fever on Jan. 11 and was hospitalized on Jan. 12, after which he began having trouble breathing.
He also wrote that he had not in fact had his medical license revoked, a reference to the sort of extrajudicial retaliation the communist authorities meet out to rights lawyers and others seen as troublemakers.
“Please rest easy, I will most certainly actively cooperate with the treatment and seek to obtain an early discharge!” Li wrote on Jan. 31. He posted again on Feb. 1, saying he had been confirmed as having the virus.
China finished building a second new hospital Thursday to isolate and treat patients — a 1,500-bed center in Wuhan. Earlier this week, another rapidly constructed, 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan with prefabricated wards and isolation rooms began taking patients.
Authorities also moved people with milder symptoms into makeshift hospitals at sports arenas, exhibition halls and other public spaces.
All together, more than 50 million people are under virtual quarantine in hard-hit Hubei province in an unprecedented — and unproven — bid to bring the outbreak under control.
China’s official news agency said Friday that President Xi Jinping urged the US to “respond reasonably” to the virus outbreak in a phone call with US President Donald Trump.
Beijing has complained that the US was flying its citizens out of Wuhan but not providing any assistance to China.
The White House said Trump “expressed confidence in China’s strength and resilience in confronting the challenge” of the outbreak.
In Hong Kong, hospital workers demanding a shutdown of the territory’s border with mainland China were still on strike. The territory’s leader Carrie Lam announced a 14-day quarantine of all travelers entering the city from the mainland starting Saturday, but the government has refused to seal the border entirely. Taiwan has said it will refuse entry to all non-citizens or residents who have recently visited Hong Kong, Macao or China beginning Friday.
Testing of a new antiviral drug was set to begin on a group of patients Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The drug, Remdesivir, is made by US biotech company Gilead Sciences.