Israeli flag carrier El Al said Thursday it has ordered the immediate suspension of all flights to and from Italy, with travel to Thailand set to also be halted next week until March 27, due spread of coronavirus.
The decision came just hours after it was revealed an Israeli national who arrived on a flight from Italy at the start of the week tested positive for the deadly COVID-19 virus. The ministry ordered the rest of the passengers on board the El Al flight LY382 that landed at Ben Gurion Airport at 4:10 pm on Sunday to immediately self-quarantine for 14 days and report to the ministry via their website.
"In light of the health and interior ministries directive, the company is forced to announce the suspension of operations in Milan, Venice, Rome and Naples,” said the airlines in a statement. “Operations in Thailand will be halted starting Monday until March 27, with the last flight to Bangkok departing on Sunday and the last flight to Israel departing on Tuesday.”
El Al also said it is postponing the inauguration of a new direct flight route from Tel Aviv to Tokyo, which is now set to become operational on April 4.
The company added that anyone who purchased tickets for canceled flights are eligible for a full refund, or alternatively can book another flight for a later date.
The Health Ministry a day earlier issued a travel warning to Italy after the local authorities said a 12th person had died in northern Italy from the virus, while the number of confirmed cases in the country rising to 528, the biggest in Europe.
Thailand, meanwhile, has been on Israel's travel advisory list for some time, along with Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan and of course China where the virus originated.
In the meantime, an Israeli citizen who returned from Thailand was arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of violating self-quarantine guidelines.
Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court immediately released him and criticized Israel Police and the Prison Service for not preparing for such an event, given the strict measures taken by the Health Ministry.