Photo: Flash90

Coronavirus alert across Israel

Israeli authorities are making every effort to quell fears of a potential local outbreak of the coronavirus after several members of South Korean tourist group have been found to be infected with the potentially-fatal disease.

During a media conference, the Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Health, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, said that 9 of the 39 pilgrims who had been in the country between 8-15 February tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to South Korea. The group is known to have toured many holy sites, including Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The senior health official said that an epidemiological investigation is underway to ascertain who in Israel may have been exposed to the disease, as the South Koreans are estimated to have come into contact with hundreds or more members of the general public. The Health Ministry Director-General commented that it can now be assumed that the chance of a possible contagion has risen following the incident.

After holding yet another emergency consultation with the country’s top health and public security officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leader revealed, that the number of nations whose citizens are barred from entering Israel in attempts to limit a COVID-19 outbreak has been expanded to Australia and Italy. Saying that additional countries will be added as “necessary,” the Premier reiterated his policy that “over-preparation is preferable to under-preparation.” “Until now, Israel has been stricter than any other country,” stressed Netanyahu, vowing that “we will continue to do whatever is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus in Israel.”

Meanwhile, Jerusalem is keeping a close eye on the growing number of COVID-19 cases in its arch-foe, Iran.  “There are (infected) in Iran, we suspect a large number – which may have implications for Turkey,” remarked Israeli Minister of Health Ya’akov Litzman, adding that “We will also investigate this throughout the day.”

In fact, the Islamic Republic is being forced into even greater isolation as many countries with which it maintain ties are barring entry to Iranians. In fact, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced that Anakara has “decided to close the border gates with neighboring-Iran temporarily, as the situation got more serious in the country.”

Iran’s Health Ministry confirmed that 8 of the confirmed patients stricken with coronavirus have died of the disease. When asked whether the country is able to prevent further deaths, the spokesman for Islamic Republic’s Health Ministry, Kianoush Jahanpour, acknowledged, “There are some difficulties in this matter, but the necessary medicines and equipment for treating coronavirus are not totally available.”