Israeli flag carrier El Al is considering a temporary suspension of its flights to Thailand due to the spread of the coronavirus, which originated in China.
A discussion on the issue comes after the Health Ministry published a directive on Monday instructing all those returning from Thailand to quarantine themselves for a period of 14 days, for fear they may have contracted the virus during their stay.
In a report published by the company on Monday, it said that "in light of the Health Ministry's directives, the carrier will reconfigure its route to Bangkok, this as part of the temporary hold on flights to Beijing and Hong Kong."
The Thai Embassy in Israel has directed its citizens to refrain from traveling to the country.
El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin said in a letter to employees that the company is "going through hard times, which will require us to take some drastic and painful decisions."
"We are in the midst of a global event, with its final effects far from being predicted," he said.
The order effectively expands the list of countries in the already existing directive, which so far included only mainland China, where the COVID-19 virus originated.
The latest order states anyone returning from Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau is required to remain in a solitary confinement in either a place of residence or in a medical facility.
"The directive was issued because of the spread of the virus in countries beyond China, and to prevent its spread in Israel," said the Health Ministry in a statement.
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said the decision also stems from the fact that the current number of those infected are just “the tip of the iceberg.”
"We have already seen the increase in the number of people, who returned from those countries, experiencing symptoms of the virus," said Litzman. “Now that the number of cases in those countries have risen, we have decided to ask all people returning to stay in isolation.”
Litzman added there is also an indication of the spread of the virus inside those countries, as opposed to the assumption that all the infected arrived from mainland China.
According to the directive, the quarantined individual must avoid public spaces, including educational institutions, workplaces, public transport, shopping centers and hospitals.
The travelers are required to quarantine themselves even if they do not experience any symptoms.
If, however, those who recently returned from East Asia start experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath, they must urgently contact their health care provider or be taken to the emergency room.
Before arriving at the emergency room, the patient must cover the mouth and nose with a surgical mask or other available tools, and avoid traveling on public transport.
Furthermore, those under quarantine must remain in a well-ventilated room separate from the rest of the household for the entire 14 days. If contact with the quarantined is necessary for any reason, surgical masks and gloves must be worn.
First published: 16:07 , 02.17.20