Over 1,000 students, soccer fans isolated as 9th-grader diagnosed with virus
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Health officials expect 'increase in magnitude' of outbreak

Over 1,000 students, soccer fans isolated as 9th-grader diagnosed with virus

Ministry considers restrictions on public transportation, US travel; isolation extended for voters at Tel Aviv coronavirus polling station; elementary school teacher also infected

Illustrative: Maccabi Tel Aviv fans during the UEFA Champions League playoff round second leg soccer match between Switzerland's FC Basel 1893 and Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv on August 25, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Maccabi Tel Aviv fans during the UEFA Champions League playoff round second leg soccer match between Switzerland's FC Basel 1893 and Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv on August 25, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Wednesday instructed all 1,150 students at a high school, plus the members of an elementary school class in a different school, to self-quarantine at home, after a teen and a 5th-grade teacher were diagnosed with the coronavirus.

In addition, soccer fans who sat in a particular area at a Tel Aviv game last week have also been told to go into isolation.

The order came after the ministry announced late Tuesday that three more Israelis had tested positive for the virus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to 15.

One of the three is a 9th-grade student at the Brener High School in Givat Brener who had reportedly worked at the Red Pirate toy store in Or Yehuda, where he came into contact with an Israeli employee who returned from Italy with the coronavirus.

As a result the ministry told all students and staff members at the school to remain secluded at home until March 12.

In addition, the teen attended the derby game on February 24 when Hapoel Tel Aviv played Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium. The ministry said that anyone who sat in the following areas from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. is instructed to enter quarantine: Gates 7-8, section 425, rows 43-49, seats 167-179.

The Red Pirate branch has become a focus of concerns over the spread of the virus in Israel. So far, three people who work at the store have been diagnosed with the disease.

Workers disinfect a shop in Or Yehuda, after a man who works at the shop and returned from Italy tested positive for coronavirus, February 28, 2020. (Flash90 )

The student’s father told Channel 12 television that the family had asked the Magen David Adom ambulance service to test them all for the virus because their son worked at the toy store. The Health Ministry had already ordered all those who were in the shop at certain critical times to self-quarantine for 14 days.

On Tuesday night MDA contacted the family and told them that their son had tested positive for the disease, officially known as COVID-19, he said.

The father said his son “feels fine” except for a mild temperature and some coughing.

Another person who was in the store has also caught the virus. Said to be a deputy principal and teacher at an elementary school in Kiryat Ono, the educator’s fifth grade students, reportedly 27 in number, were also put into isolation.

The third new patient recently returned from Italy, where there has been a significant outbreak of the virus, and voted Monday at a special polling station for those in isolation. All those present at that time will need to extend their quarantines.

The Israeli traveler returned from Italy on February 29 and had been in self-quarantine at home ever since.

On Wednesday the Health Ministry said the results of an epidemiological probe found that the individual, who is from Tel Aviv, left the country on February 22 taking EasyJet flight EJ2564 to Venice, returning on February 29 on flight EJU3342,which landed in Israel at 4:30 p.m.

“Travelers on the flight are requested to go into home quarantine according to Health Ministry instructions and to report as such on the Health Ministry website,” the statement said, referring to a specially established internet page for Israelis to report on their self-quarantine.

Illustrative — People wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus at Ben Gurion International Airport on February 27, 2020 (Flash90)

The ministry said the patient had exercised their right to vote in Monday’s election at one of the special isolated polling stations, which were set up in tents so that some 5,000 Israelis already in quarantine could vote.

The individual voted at the polling station at 14 Klausner Street in the Ramat Aviv neighborhood of Tel Aviv, the ministry said.

“Anyone who was at the polling station between the hours of 10:15 and 11:11 a.m. should extend their home quarantine by 14 days from election day and report as such on the Health Ministry website,” the statement said.

The ministry added that anyone who shows symptoms of the disease, such as a high temperature or coughing, should immediately contact the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

A voter at a special polling station for those quarantined due to possible exposure to the new coronavirus in Jerusalem, on March 2, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

In a statement Wednesday the Health Ministry warned that it expects “an increase in the magnitude” of the outbreak in Israel.

“We believe that widespread outbreak in Israel is inevitable, and that the actions we are now taking can delay the spread and reduce its intensity,” deputy director-general of the Health Ministry Itamar Grotto wrote in a post on his Facebook page. “At this stage, when there is a local infection, several further stages are expected, the last of which is a major outbreak, the intensity of which is still unclear.”

As the virus continues to spread across the globe, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov said officials were considering restricting public transportation, and also tamping down travel from the US where a number of cases have been reported.

Bar Simon-Tov told Channel 12 television news on Tuesday the ministry is watching the US closely and soon Israel “might have to do something” about flights from there.

“We’re looking at what’s going on around the world… and we’re getting close to the point where we’ll have to do something” about travel from the US, he said.

Israel has taken far-reaching steps to prevent an outbreak, banning entry to foreigners who were in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Italy in the 14 days prior to arriving, and compelling all Israelis recently in those areas to self-quarantine for 14 days.

People wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus at the Ben Gurion International Airport on February 27, 2020 (Flash90)

In a dramatic statement last month, the Health Ministry urged Israelis to seriously consider refraining from traveling abroad. Israel was 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 88,000 worldwide and claimed over 3,000 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.

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