Coronavirus Cases Suspected in Israel

A poster with information about the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is displayed at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany, Sunday. (Reuters/Annegret Hilse)

Paramedics in hazmat (hazardous materials) suits were seen on Sunday wheeling a patient with a suspected case of the deadly coronavirus from an ambulance into Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

The patient was identified in local media reports as a Chinese worker who arrived in Israel during the last few weeks, as the epidemic in China began spreading overseas.

He was employed on a construction site in Sderot.

The man, 32, was taken from the ambulance encased in a mobile isolation unit to prevent contagion, if it proved to be the Chinese virus.

However, Chezy Levy, the medical director of Barzilai, told reporters that these were precautions that must be taken, given the danger of the epidemic, but that they don’t have any definite diagnosis yet.

“At the moment, he does not exactly answer the case definition as described by the Health Ministry, but we are exercising caution and care and checking him in every way,” Levy said.

Earlier on Sunday an Israeli woman in her 60s checked in at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center with suspected symptoms, according to The Jerusalem Post. Returning from a visit to China, she has complained of severe respiratory problems, which have been associated with coronavirus. The hospital did not report a diagnosis of her case.

To date, Israel has not had any confirmed cases of the disease.

The Israeli Health Ministry issued an official warning on Sunday against travel to China amid the outbreak of a coronavirus which has so far killed at least 56 people.

“As part of the assessment of the coronavirus conducted at the Health Ministry, it was decided to recommend the public avoids all nonessential travel to China,” the ministry said in a statement. “We recommend not to travel to Hubei Province at all and that the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government in the various cities should be monitored in real time.”

The Health Ministry advised that anyone who was in China in the past 14 days and experiences fever and acute diarrhea should contact their health-care provider or go to an emergency room.

Meanwhile, at Ben Gurion Airport, passengers and baggage arriving from China are not being checked, according to The Times of Israel.

Customs officials they lack protective equipment and will not take a chance of exposing themselves and their families to the deadly contagion if they check passengers without the necessary precautions.

The workers said in a statement that they had asked management for suitable equipment, but so far it had not been provided.

A Chinese-speaking tour guide told the Times that all organized tours from China to Israel have been canceled starting Monday. Although individuals can still visit Israel, agencies have been told to cancel tours out of the country.

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