Israelis who violate coronavirus self-quarantine could face 7-year prison term

Violations of self-quarantine can be reported on Health Ministry website; Israeli passengers on virus-infected cruise ship head home

Dr. Galia Barkai at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, which was converted to receive coronavirus patients, February 17, 2020. (Flash90)
Dr. Galia Barkai at a hotel at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, February 17, 2020. The hotel has been converted into a quarantine facility on. (Flash90)

Israelis caught violating a mandatory home quarantine for travelers who have recently visited East Asia could face a prison sentence of up to seven years, the Health Ministry warned Thursday.

Those who knowingly violate the quarantine could be sentenced to seven years in prison, while those who do so out of negligence could get a three-year sentence, the ministry said in a statement.

Travelers returning from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Thailand are being required to self-quarantine for 14 days over concerns they may carry the new coronavirus.

“The Health Ministry sees members of the public that have been requested to isolate themselves as full partners in preventing the spread of the disease in Israel,” the statement said. “We’re sure they will show responsibility toward their family members, friends, and toward sick and frail people in society, and reduce the risk of infections.”

The ministry called on people to report anyone violating their home quarantine via a webpage on the virus.

Temporary legislation under The People’s Health Order 2020 also mandates a 14-day home quarantine to or any individual who was in close contact with a confirmed patient over the last 14 days.

In addition, Israel on Monday announced it was refusing entry to all foreign nationals who had traveled to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau during the past 14 days. Israel had already in late January imposed a similar ban on foreign nationals entering from China.

Foreign Ministry officials have raised concerns that Israel’s drastic measures — not taken by any other country — could impact diplomatic relations with some nations.

The Thai foreign ministry called on Israel to “reconsider the decision” to ban its citizens.

Meanwhile Thursday, 11 Israeli passengers were finally allowed to leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where they had spent over two weeks in quarantine off the coast of Japan as the deadly coronavirus steadily spread among those on board, infecting hundreds.

One Israeli passenger was forced to remain on the ship after he was found earlier in the day to have contracted the disease, officially known as COVID-19.

He was the fourth Israeli to test positive for the illness out of at least 15 Israeli nationals aboard the Diamond Princess. Three, who were infected days ago, were already taken to Japanese medical centers where they were being treated and kept in quarantine.

The Israelis were greeted on the dock by a delegation from the embassy in Tokyo and transported to a specially chartered plane waiting to fly them directly back to the country, Israel’s health and foreign ministries said in a joint statement.

The plane is expected to land Friday morning at Ben-Gurion International Airport, where it will be kept far away from the terminal buildings that generally process arriving passengers.

All those who come in contact with the passengers will be wearing protective equipment. Their luggage will be loaded onto a truck and removed from the airport and then also inspected, Channel 12 news reported.

The plane will return immediately to Asia and its crew will not be allowed to enter Israel while it’s being prepared for the flight back.

After arriving in Israel, the 11 passengers will be taken directly to the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv for further health checkups and isolation for two weeks at a location off the main hospital campus, the hospital said in a statement.

The medical team will use sensors and robots and give handheld devices to the quarantined patients in order to minimize staff members’ exposure.

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