A Tel Aviv beachfront hotel and another in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood have gone from vacation to isolation, housing coronavirus patients with mild symptoms.
The new facilities are being run by the military’s Home Front Command, as part of an effort to ease the load on the country’s hospitals as they deal with the rising number of patients diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness.
Several dozen patients were being housed at Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama Hotel, located just north of the Jaffa flea market.
Channel 12 news reported that aside from the sick, some 75 people who arrived from New York on Thursday and who must enter quarantine would also be housed at the Jerusalem facility.
The Globes newspaper reported that the arrivals were ultra-Orthodox Israelis who had visited New York’s Crown Heights neighborhood, which has been hard hit by the pathogen.
They were told at Ben Gurion Airport that due to their arrival from a virus hotspot, they would not be allowed to home quarantine and would be assumed to be carriers until proven otherwise.
Watch (Hebrew): Ultra-Orthodox arrivals from New York told they will enter quarantine at Dan Hotel
One of the patients at Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama, Meryl Jacob, told Channel 12 news that upon arrival the patients were briefed by IDF and health officials and received a kit “with everything we need to check our temperature, blood oxygen levels and pulse every day. Twice a day a nurse calls and I give her my readings.”
She added: “I really do feel we are in good hands and they’re doing everything for us.”
Jacob said there was a clear schedule for when patients could leave their rooms to get food. “They prepare our meals in bags. Every person takes a bag to their room and eats there.”
Jacob noted that her situation was improving after suffering from a fever and some shortness of breath. “I am definitely getting stronger.”
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has said he plans to have four hotels converted into quarantine centers. The other two hotel-hospitals — one in northern Israel and one in the south — are due to open in the coming days.
Each of them is designed to hold roughly 500 people, with the capacity to hold up to 2,000 if necessary.
The IDF’s Home Front Command is working with civilian authorities to prepare for the continuation of the outbreak, which has infected at least 529 Israelis as of Thursday morning.
Roughly 700 Home Front Command reservists have been called up so far to assist in that effort, with plans to bring in another 1,300 in the coming days.
Several hundred of these have been working to develop new educational and instructional materials about the coronavirus, while others were assisting the Magen David Adom ambulance service to answer emergency calls. It has also opened a dedicated website about the disease (though currently only a Hebrew version is available) and is planning to launch a national informational hotline in the coming days.
The Home Front Command has also been preparing to step in and assist civilian authorities conduct coronavirus tests in the “drive-in” model that was first adopted by South Korea.
The system, in which tests are conducted while the suspected cases remain inside their cars, is seen as faster and safer than requiring people to come into clinics and hospitals or sending medical professionals door-to-door.
In addition, the unit is preparing to take over Israel’s supply lines, if necessary, to ensure that those in quarantine have access to food and medicine — as well as the general public, if the situation gets bad enough to disrupt the flow of goods nationwide.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have been quarantined in their homes across the country, as the virus continued to spread. On Tuesday the government announced tough new measures in an effort to curb infection rates, partially shuttering the economy, heavily limiting workplace attendance and urging the public to stay at home unless absolutely necessary for purposes of work, purchasing necessities or other urgent affairs.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.