A third Israeli national on board a quarantined ship docked in Japan has been infected with coronavirus, the Health Ministry said Sunday evening. Earlier, it was confirmed that two of 15 Israelis on board have the COVID-19 virus.
The Health Ministry and the Foreign Ministry issued a joint statement confirming the third Israeli coronavirus patient, a woman from the south of the country, has already been taken off the Diamond Princess cruise liner. Her husband, althoght not tested positive for the virus, asked to be taken off along with her.
The initial statement released by the Health Ministry in the morning hours, said that in fact three Israelis had been infected, but that was later corrected to two. Several hours later, the initial assessment proved to be correct.
Israel is still looking into the possibility of repatriating the remaining Israelis aboard who have not displayed symptoms of the virus. The passengers will be quarantined and observed back home if Foreign Minister Israel Katz manages to persuade the Japanese authorities to release them.
Deputy Director-General of the Health Ministry, Prof. Itamar Grotto is believed to have already arrived in Tokyo.
Yoni Levy, whose mother and sister are still on board the infected ship, said the family feels extremely frustrated with the Israeli government’s conduct on the matter.
“The way the government is working [to bring the Israelis on board back] represents all the biggest problems in Israeli society today,” he said. “Always remembering too late, and when you need the country it’s not there for you.”
Rafi Dahan, whose parents are also aboard the cruise liner, said the family feels helpless and cannot do anything but pray.
"It was clear from the start that things were not being conducted the way they were supposed to," Dahan said. "No one has contacted us or updated us. We are irrelevant as far as the country is concerned,” he added.
“I want the prime minister to put aside his private issues and handle this matter. We are very disappointed.”
The liner was quarantined on arrival in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Feb. 3 after a man who disembarked from the liner in Hong Kong before it travelled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus that has now killed more than 1,350 in mainland China.
With the number of those infected on the cruise ship now up to at least 350, concerns have been raised about conditions on the ship, where about 3,500 people remain on board.
About 80% of the ship passengers are aged 60 or over, with 215 in their 80s and 11 in their 90s, according to Japanese media.
Reuters contributed to this report