Soldiers from an East Asian country hit by coronavirus are in Israel for a drill
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Israeli soldier's father says there is 'feeling of betrayal'

Soldiers from an East Asian country hit by coronavirus are in Israel for a drill

Following radio report, which doesn’t name country but says troops in direct contact with IDF soldiers, army confirms details and says all necessary medical checks were performed

Illustrative image of Israeli soldiers take part in a training drill in Baf Lachish army base in southern Israel, December 20, 2016. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)
Illustrative image of Israeli soldiers take part in a training drill in Baf Lachish army base in southern Israel, December 20, 2016. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

Despite sweeping steps taken by Israel to prevent the new deadly coronavirus from reaching the country, soldiers from one of the East Asian countries hit the hardest by the disease have been allowed to come to the Jewish state and participate in a military exercise with Israeli troops at a base in the south, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed Sunday.

A few soldiers arrived in Israel over the weekend and will now participate in the joint drill for several weeks, while engaging in direct contact with Israeli soldiers, Army Radio reported, saying information security rules prevented it from publishing the name of the country.

The report said that Israel decided to go ahead with the drill as planned to avoid harming relations with the country in question. Military sources were quoted as saying the exercise was “important.”

The country from which the troops arrived has been hit “intensely” by the virus, which has killed at least 811 people and infected more than 37,000 since it appeared in China last month. Israel’s Health Ministry has published special directives for Israelis returning from China, according to the report.

People cover their faces at Ben Gurion International Airport amid coronavirus fears, February 2, 2020. (Avshalom Shoshani/Flash90)

Doctors and medics are closely monitoring the condition of the Asian soldiers and checking them on a daily basis for signs of infection, the report said. The necessary equipment to quarantine anyone suspected of contracting the coronavirus has been brought to the base and is ready to use.

Confirming the report, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit commented that “all the necessary medical checks were performed and even made stricter. For now, there is no suspicion of a corona infection during the joint activities.

“The IDF acts in accordance with Health Ministry orders and the Medical Corps commander, to prevent soldiers from contracting the virus and preserving their health,” it said.

However, despite the army’s assurances, a father of a soldier serving on the same base was quoted by Army Radio as saying: “It is with great fear that I am sending my daughter to the army this morning. There is a feeling of betrayal and of an irresponsible act. I want to believe that nobody is making money at the expense of our soldiers’ health. No excuse is worth the risk.”

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (2L) and Health Ministry officials during a meeting on the threat of the Chinese coronavirus, at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, February 2, 2020. (Health Ministry/courtesy)

The Health Ministry on Friday updated its procedures for travelers feeling unwell after arriving from specific 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 coming 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 undergo testing.

In addition, anyone who has been in close contact with an individual confirmed to have the virus must also be tested.

Unwell travelers must warn the medical center prior to their arrival, must cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth, and are also asked to avoid using public transportation.

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