To catch a coronavirus: 6 things to know for February 23
Israel media review

To catch a coronavirus: 6 things to know for February 23

Israel is now isolation nation, thanks to some Koreans who toured around, as officials mull whom to ban next and what damage it may do, and Evgeny tries to sell us a miracle cure

A Korean airplane that arrived from South Korea, after landing at Ben Gurion International Airport on February 22, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
A Korean airplane that arrived from South Korea, after landing at Ben Gurion International Airport on February 22, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

1. In the footsteps of the Koreans: Israel is hitting the panic button after it emerged that some South Korean tourists who visited Israel earlier this month may have been carrying the COVID-19 coronavirus, throwing students, teachers, soldiers and anyone else who may have come into the contact with the group into self-quarantine and casting a sideways glance at anything below the 38th parallel (to say nothing of everything above it).

  • “This is really troubling,” an expert in contagious diseases tells the Ynet news site. “They went around the country, seemingly didn’t know they had the virus because they were only lightly ill. So there’s a real danger that the contagion will spread in Israel.”
  • News outlets publish the itinerary of the group, which spent nine days touring the Israel and the West Bank and try to find evidence of everywhere their feet trod the Holy Land.
  • That includes Channel 13 publishing a picture from a tour of Tel Sheva in which it says the Koreans can be seen in the background.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth terms their itinerary a “dangerous journey” and publishes a picture of the menaces-to-be posing atop Masada.
  • Footage zooming around social media also shows the group visiting Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs.
  • “We were close to them for some 30 or 40 minutes while their guide talked and then we went into a cave after them. Who knows if one of them coughed in there and it lingered. It’s scary,” one student, who had the bad luck of visiting Masada at the same time and has been forced into quarantine, tells Channel 12 news.
  • On Sunday, the channel reports from a Beersheba school where it says classrooms and hallways are practically empty because everyone is staying home over virus fears.

2. Guess who’s here: Add to that the fact that the virus was found — shockingly — in one of the people kept aboard the Diamond Princess cruise who had used the media to complain that they were fine and should be allowed to go home, and Israel has gone crazy for quarantines.

  • “The corona is in Israel,” screams a headline in Israel Hayom, using the word that has become local shorthand for the disease, even though only that one person has actually found to have it.
  • Yedioth’s front page is even more coronavirus-centric, being taken up almost solely by a Q and A about the virus.
  • “Is two weeks quarantine enough,” reads one question. “Actually no. At first they estimated that it took 14 days from the virus entering the body for symptoms to show, but now they know it can take a month. For now the original instruction have not changed.”
  • Hagai Levin, one the country’s top public health experts, tells Kan that “our working assumption needs to be that there are cases of corona in Israel that we don’t know about.”
  • Walla News reports that a second quarantine zone will be set up at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Hospital head Zeev Rothstein tells the channel that the ward will be set up in the hospital’s old tower, which is being decommissioned. “We still haven’t finished tearing it down, so we have the option,” he says.

3. When fake news goes viral: Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is quoted in Channel 13 saying that even if people don’t listen, the cops are ready to take action. And he says his ministry is preparing for the possibility of elections being tainted by the virus.

  • “I have ordered the police to prepare for the possibility that the disease could interfere with the elections, even via fake news used to mislead certain areas,” he says cryptically.
  • Channel 12’s Yaron Avraham writes that with all the news and campaigning over the last few months it seems the virus may end up being the thing with the biggest potential to decide the election.
  • “Just imagine a situation in which you get a message on your phone saying that someone suspected to be carrying the virus showed up at your polling station. It doesn’t mater if it seems fake, you won’t take the chance,” he writes.
  • Not to fear: Former Likud minister Ayoub Kara says he has the cure, and he got it from some guy named Evgeny: a machine made to purify water, or as he terms it “a special machine for stopping the spread of corona.”
  • “Evgeny gave it to me in Saint Petersburg. I’ll travel to Israel tomorrow,” he tweets, along with what appears to be his or Evgeny’s number.
  • Needless to say, the media and the internet has a field day with him, and not for the first time.
  • Some point out that the actual health minister needed a non-Jew to be updated about the virus over Shabbat, according to a report by Channel 12.
  • “Wake me when we reach the 16th century,” one person tweets.

4. Not invited: Not aiding anyone’s sense of clarity, the Health Ministry published a statement Saturday night saying that the government was likely to totally seal its borders soon, Channel 13 news reports.

  • However, the statement was soon erased, according to Ynet, It remained in English, though, hours later, though as of this writing it has been erased there too.
  • But the borders aren’t exactly open. The decision to send back a plane of Koreans, seemingly reacting to the high number of cases to be discovered there over the weekend, invites a “strong” response from Seoul, that country’s Yonhap news agency reports.
  • “By the recommendation of the Health Ministry, right now we are discussing Japan and South Korea, but the situation is dynamic,” the head of the population authority Shlomo Mor-Yosef tells Kan.
  • Is Italy next? “Italy is one of the countries that we are following closely with worry,” Health Ministry head Moshe Bar Siman-Tov tells Army Radio. “We’ll publish new directives today. If someone comes back from there feeling ill, he’ll be checked for corona.”

5. World War C: Israel’s moves, which Bar Siman-Tov noted go beyond what any other country is doing, have produced some hand-wringing and some praise.

  • “We know how to live without the approval of other countries,” minister Bezalel Smotrich tells Army Radio. “Public health is more important to us.”
  • In Yedioth, columnist Sarit Rozenbloom says the decision to bring the Diamond Princess group home (and their decision to break the quarantine on the way home for a group sing-a-long) was “dumb — if not criminal.”
  • But now that the virus is here, she writes, “the heavy responsibility is on all of us. If until now we’ve ignored the Health Ministry’s instructions for quarantine or keeping good hygiene, this is the time to take responsibility, for us and those around us, and do what needs to be done with careful attention.”
  • Reuters correspondent Dan Williams jokes on Twitter that Israel is starting to look like World War Z, the book and movie in which Israel closes off its borders and creates a coexistence safe haven from the zombie apocalypse, until Brad Pitt shows up.

6. Left for dead: Also back from beyond is the 2015 shooting death of Yaqoub Abu Al-Qia’an, a teacher who was killed by police while driving his car during an operation to raze homes in his hometown of Umm al-Hiran.

  • New evidence published by the media shows that an internal police investigation found that police ignored Abu Al-Qia’an as he writhed on the ground, and simple medical attention to just stanch the bleeding would have easily saved him, according to an autopsy.
  • Kan publishes footage of the incident in which he can be seen on the ground under his car as soldiers walk by without paying him any heed, apparently thinking him already dead.
  • Haaretz also publishes other troubling details about the events before his death, such as him trying to come to a deal to allow his home to be razed without any resistance, or after, in which he was termed a terror supporter because he had copies of Israel Hayom in his home with articles about Islamic State on the front page and Islamic books.
  • “A simple check found them to be normal religion books. One dealt with ways of having a ‘quiet conversation’ and another with ‘instilling spiritual culture in the home,’” Haaretz reports.
  • “In closed conversation, the idea that Israel Hayom copies could be used as evidence elicited guffaws,” it adds.
  • Nobody finds much funny about what happened, though. “This story is infuriating,” tweets Channel 12’s Amit Segal.
  • “This is one of those stories that while you are editing it your breath stops and the pictures and accounts simply don’t leave you,” writes Kan’s Roi Yanovsky. “A man lies on the ground injured for several long minutes. A simple stanch would have saved him. But he was left to die.”
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