The relatives of 15 Israelis in quarantine for coronavirus on a cruise ship docked in a Japanese port called Tuesday for their return home.
The Israelis are among 3,700 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where at least 135 cases of the virus have been now detected. The ship has been in quarantine since February 5, and will remain so for another eight days.
"We are not prepared to take part in this experiment," wrote the 152 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the 15 Israelis in a joint open letter.
Japan's Health Ministry said Monday that at least 65 more people on the liner had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total of those infected to 135. Health officials previously said 70 people had the virus among the 3,711 passengers and crew on the ship, quarantined in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo.
One of the Israelis on the ship is believed to be suffering from fever and flu like symptoms, sources told Ynet on Monday. Her diagnosis was not clear.
One of the Israelis quarantined on the cruise liner, Lena Samoylov, said the passengers have only an hour to go outside, with the rest of the time being spent in their cabins in isolation.
"We are trying not to panic,” she told Ynet on Sunday. “Today we were told that there are two more [coronavirus] patients,” she added.
“It is stressful because we don’t know if these [infected] people contracted the virus before or after boarding the ship."
"Lots of the passengers now are getting a bit of cabin fever," British passenger David Able said in a video posted on Facebook. "Depression is starting to set in."
Bracing for outbreak
In Israel, the Health Ministry said Tuesday that 140 people had been tested for the virus but none the results have so far been positive.
The ministry is working on the assumption that the virus will at some point be detected in Israel and is preparing for this eventuality.
Kits to test for the virus have been supplied to hospitals in Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Be'er Sheva.
Meanwhile, Thai Ambassador to Israel Penprapa Vongkovit on Tuesday expressed opposition to a new Health Ministry recommendation for Israelis to "consider the necessity" of flights to Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan.
"We are not aware that other countries have issued the recommendations Israel has," she said.
"When people hear about the recommendation of the Israeli Health Ministry, it becomes confusing and they think it is a ban. We want people to receive accurate information to avoid any confusion."
But Thailand's health minister said Tuesday it has barred passengers from Holland America's cruise ship MS Westerdam from disembarking, making it the latest country to turn it away amid fears of the virus despite no confirmed infections on board.
Holland America, owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp, had said on Monday that passengers would disembark in Bangkok on Feb. 13 and that there was no reason to believe anybody on board had the virus.