יעקב ליצמן
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman
Photo: Meir Ohayon
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman

Litzman bans all flights from China due to coronavirus outbreak

Health minister announces directive at end of meeting with senior health officials over confinement, treatment of virus; El Al suspends all flights to East Asian country

Itay Blumenthal, Inbar Tvizer |
Published: 01.30.20 , 19:29
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman banned on Thursday the entry of flights from China to Israel as a precautionary against the coronavirus outbreak in the East Asian country, which has already infected thousands and claimed dozens of lives.
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  • Litzman announced the new directive at the end of a meeting at the Emergency Department of the Ministry of Health revolving around confinement and treatment of the virus.
    יעקב ליצמןיעקב ליצמן
    Health Minister Yaakov Litzman
    (Photo: Meir Ohayon)
    "After extensive consultations, we've made a number of decisions pertaining to the coronavirus," said Litzman. "The numerous cases of the virus discovered in Europe require us to do everything we can to keep the Israeli people safe. We do not currently allow flights from China to Israel until further notice."
    "We shall examine tourists arriving in Israel from other countries as well and those who return from China will have to spend two weeks in solitary confinement at their homes - the period when they may still be contagious."
    The health ministry is expected to publish precise guidelines on Thursday regarding domestic confinement of Israelis returning from China.
    Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov said that the ministry will take special measures to ensure the public's health, even forcing confinement on people suspected of carrying the deadly pathogen.
    Among the attendants at the meeting were representatives of the health ministry, hospitals and HMOs, Magen David Adom, IDF Medical Corps Commander Brigadier General Dr. Tarif Bader, Israel Fire and Rescue Services and representative of the Chinese embassy in Israel.
    Earlier Thursday, Israeli airline El Al on said it will suspend all flights to China starting Thursday for a period of at least two months, due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in the country.
    The death toll from the virus currently stands at 170. The figures released early Thursday cover the previous 24 hours and represent an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,711. Of the new deaths, 37 were in the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei province and one in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
    הפגיעה במטוס הדרימליינרהפגיעה במטוס הדרימליינר
    An El Al passenger jet
    “After assessing the situation, El Al decided to suspend its flights to China until March 25,” said the company in a statement. "The severity level of the disease remains unchanged.”
    The company added the spread of coronavirus among humans is lower than the spread of other diseases, such as measles, although the symptoms of the virus might only appear two weeks into being infected.
    “We want to reiterate guidelines for prevention: maintaining personal hygiene, avoiding contact with animals, eating unprocessed animal foods and avoiding crowded places when traveling to China.”
    In addition, Chinese company Hainan Airlines also said it has suspended flights from Tel Aviv to Beijing until March 28, leaving Israelis wishing to travel to China’s capital with no option of a direct flight.
    רחובות סין בזמן התפשטות וירוס הקורונה מתרוקניםרחובות סין בזמן התפשטות וירוס הקורונה מתרוקנים
    Streets in China being sterilized
    (Photo: AFP)
    “As of this hour, the company will continue to operate from Tel Aviv to Shenzhen twice a week, in accordance with the developments and instructions of the authorities,” said the company in a statement.
    The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.
    The death rate of the new virus currently stands at 2% but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.
    In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10% of people who caught it. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.
    Associated Press contributed to this report
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