The number of Israelis who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus has risen sharply over the past 24 hours, from 25 to at least 39 people.
One of the 14 Israelis diagnosed last night is an ambulance paramedic, whose source of infection remains unknown. The others have either recently returned from Italy, Spain, Belgium and Austria or been in contact with known carriers of the contagion.
In contrast, three Israelis that had previously tested positive and underwent isolated treatment have fully recovered and were released from quarantine.
Meanwhile in Jerusalem the Ministerial committee that combats the spread of the coronavirus convened today. They discussed compelling all international travelers to Israel, from anywhere around the world, to immediately place themselves in quarantine for two weeks’ time.
Prior to the announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained that the radical measure is necessary to significantly diminish the spread of the contagion. According to the Israeli Prime Minister “With regard to the compulsory quarantine. First, we undertake our actions based on our understanding and needs; everyone clearly accepts that, including the United States. The measures undertaken until today, justified themselves; because we are truly in a scenario of control on the contagion’s spread, in smaller numbers. We see steep rises in other countries, which led us to the conclusion: if we undertake additional measures, it will be implementation against all foreign nations. There is no point in assuming limited steps. That said, it is a very tough decision.”
Netanyahu further revealed that Israel and the United States agreed to work together on efforts to develop technology that will allow for ‘widespread checkups’, and ultimately, a vaccine against the coronavirus. He said “I spoke several hours ago with my friend US Vice President Pence. I wanted to thank President Trump and Vice President Pence, and their senior (medial) team, which includes truly, some of the brightest people around the world; including at the CDC, including Dr. Deborah Birx, who we spoke with later. These are exceptional people, who lead the global effort (against the Coronavirus), and it is imperative for us to cooperate in efforts to deal with the contagion. We agreed the following: first and foremost, to focus efforts on the technological aspect, in order to develop prompt widespread checkups, all the while making every effort to develop a vaccine.”
The Director General of the Israeli Health Ministry Moshe Bar Siman-Tov seized the opportunity to prepare the Israeli public, ahead of additional anticipated steps that will further limit the freedom of movement, as part of the government’s efforts to preserve its relative control over the spread of the contagion. “Up until now, we undertook a long list of tough measures, to allow the Israeli (health) system to better withstand this global challenge, which impacts all systems around the world. But, with such a significant event, as this one, the event goes and closes on us. We can see more and more countries – we published a long list countries for the purpose of quarantine – but we can see more and more countries that the numbers (of infected patients) is growing, where there is a beginning, or even a continuation, of losing control over the rate of infections. This will force us to undertake many more measures, to truly preserve control – as much as possible – over the contagion in Israel,” Bar Siman-Tov said.
Turning to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, where the Palestinian Authority, in coordination with their Israeli counterparts are making every effort to thwart the coronavirus from further spreading; after Greek pilgrims who visited the city tested positive following their return to Greece.
In light of the fact that seven Palestinian employees of a Bethlehem hotel were later found to have contracted the virus; an American tour group that stayed at the hotel was forced into quarantine. Pastor Chris Bell, who led his Church’s tour, recounted the events that led to the group’s isolation saying “When we first realized something was wrong is when we came back from Jerusalem which I believe was Tuesday night, we came back and we could tell that people were frantic at the hotel so we then asked questions and that’s when we got the word that there had been tourist from Greece that had come to the hotel, went home and was diagnosed with the coronavirus.” The Pastor further added “We were coming out here for a Holy Land tour, we were so excited to be here, it was going to be the trip of a lifetime, I have thirteen people with me, pastors and staff members with their spouses, and we were really here to learn and to enjoy this beautiful place. I mean we love Israel, we love Bethlehem, we love the people here and its just been, it was just something we were so excited about.”
Thankfully, after fourteen days of isolation, Palestinian medical authorities confirmed that the Christian tour group from the United States – along with 164 others – tested negative for the coronavirus. Palestinian Authority Government Spokesman Ibrahim Melhem stated that “Test results were released a short while ago and show that around 164 people, including the 14 Americans who were in touch with sick people in Bethlehem, have tested negative. This means that they are not infected by the virus.”