All Israeli Returnees to be Quarantined

Hundreds more Israelis are likely to enter isolation on Wednesday after it was discovered that a newly diagnosed coronavirus patient attended a soccer game at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.
The Health Ministry is asking anyone who entered through gates seven or eight and sat in section 425, rows 43-49, seats 169-179 of the stadium to go into home-quarantine, after patient No. 13, a high school student from the Brenner Regional Council, visited the stadium on February 24.

The announcement came shortly after the ministry said that the Israelis who had been in home-based quarantine but voted at the Klausner Street “coronavirus voting station” in Tel Aviv are required to extend their isolation by another 14 days. The request came after “patient No. 15” was diagnosed with the novel virus Tuesday night. 
Patient 15 returned from Italy on February 29 and had been in self-quarantine – except the hour between 10:15 and 11:15 on Monday morning, when he left his house to vote in the election.
One other person was also diagnosed late Tuesday: an elementary school deputy principal from Kiryat Ono. Patients No. 13 and 14 both contracted the coronavirus at the Red Pirate toy store in Or Yehuda.
As a result of the student being diagnosed with the potentially lethal virus, some 1,150 students from his high school have also been asked to enter home-quarantine, as have additional teachers, staff members and even bus drivers who came into contact with the youth.
The teacher’s 27 students have also been quarantined. 
According to the Health Ministry, all of the newly diagnosed patients have mild symptoms.
"All of the instructions provided by the Health Ministry have prevented the disease from spreading," said Education Minister Rafi Peretz. "Schools and school principals are receiving clear instructions – we are not leaving anyone to deal with this on their own.
"The decision to put these students in isolation was made by the Health Ministry," he continued, noting that the Education Ministry would continue to follow the Health Ministry's recommendation "in hopes that these actions will prevent wider spread."
On Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman will convene a press conference to roll out new regulations to help contain the virus. Rumors on social media by the Hebrew press and health officials indicated that among the recommendations could be that no gatherings over 40 people should take place.
Additionally, the Health Ministry said it is considering cancelling all classes and isolating whole communities in smaller towns when one person contracts the virus.
It will also likely add new travel restrictions, such as requiring home-quarantine for people arriving in Israel from France, Germany and many other places in the world. 
Health Ministry director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto, who is currently under quarantine himself, posted on Facebook Wednesday to help inform the public about the spread of the coronavirus in Israel and around the world.
He said that there are currently more than 93,000 cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide and more than 3,200 people dead as a result. Outside of China, there have been 13,000 cases reported and about 200 deaths.
“At present, the disease is declining in China,” he said, “but in all other countries, we are watching the rise and spread of the disease.”
The disease associated with the coronavirus has been named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization.
Grotto named South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland among the countries known to have high rates of the virus, but said that there are other countries about which we don’t have enough information, such as the United States.
“It is estimated that the disease is more widespread than reported and we need to make decisions based on partial information,” he said, “taking into account the differences between countries and their readiness levels.”
Responding to an inquiry about whether Israelis should forgo all travel or expect to face quarantine upon return to Israel, Grotto said that “travel to countries where an outbreak is already known should know be considered,” and that one should reconsider any travel at all based on necessity and personal health status.
“Older people, over the age of 60, or people who have pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or respiratory illness, are advised to take extreme care,” Grotto noted. “The risk for children under the age of 18 is actually lower.”
He added that the possibility of one returning from a visit and being required to go into isolation is real and should be taken into account. “However, it should be noted, as there is widespread expansion [of the virus] in Israel, the risk of acquiring the disease in Israel will be no different than abroad and the Health Ministry's recommendations will focus more on guidelines within Israel rather than travel abroad,” he said. 
“We believe that widespread expansion in Israel is inevitable,” Grotto concluded. “We are currently working on estimating the extent of morbidity expected using mathematical models based on the knowledge we have on the subject from around the world.
“It seems we are looking at dealing with this for at least the next months, so we need to preserve our energy.”

On Thursday, a conference will take place at Haifa University about the coronavirus. Participants from colleges and universities across Israel are expected to attend. They will receive an up-to-date overview on the world's coronavirus morbidity and response, as well as review the Health Ministry's guidelines.
The country has expanded the number of hospitals that can treat coronavirus patients. On Tuesday, Rambam Medical Center opened an isolation unit. And on Wednesday, Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon also announced it was prepared. The 15-year-old teenager - patient No. 13 - is being held in quarantine there. 


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