Gov’t to Hold Emergency Meeting on Coronavirus as Health Ministry Tightens Entry

Hospital staff prepare for the arrival of a Chinese woman to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Yerushalayim, over suspicions she may be infected with the Coronavirus originated in China, on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene a meeting Sunday of senior government, health and emergency service executives to ensure that Isael is prepared to protect itself from and combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are not taking any unnecessary risks,” the prime minister said in a statement released Motzoei Shabbos. “The virus has already spread to five continents and more than 25 countries. We are aware that the virus cannot be completely prevented, so we are preparing to deal with the virus after its first entry into Israel.”

Representatives from the ministries of Health, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Interior and Transport will take part in the meeting, as well as the heads of the National Security Council, Israel Institute for Biological Research, Public Health Services, and the Population and Immigration Authority. Magen David Adom and the Home Front Command will also be represented.

The Foreign Ministry has already issued a warning to Israelis not to travel to China. On Thursday, El Al halted all flights to Beijing until March 25.

“Following the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus epidemic as an international emergency, it is recommended that Israeli citizens refrain from flying to China,” the Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry also encouraged Israelis currently in China to leave, saying that although Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman has banned all incoming flights to Israel from China, one can travel back via a third country.

If Israelis do return to the country after being in China, then the ministry recommends a series of safety measures, including staying in isolation for around two weeks, the incubation period of the virus.

Israel’s travel warning is not yet valid for Hong Kong or Macao, the ministry said.

“The Foreign Ministry wishes to emphasize that the Israeli delegations in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, as well as its Hong Kong representative) should continue to operate despite the emergency,” the notice concluded.

As noted, in accordance with the instructions of Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, two new provisions are intended to prevent as far as possible the entry of the coronavirus into Israel.

The first provision is intended to allow the Population Authority to refuse entry of non-Israeli residents who have been in China in the last 14 days, following the cessation of direct flights to China and the closure of land crossings.

In addition, an order will be issued, which will require residents of Israel who have been in China during the last 14 days to stay in isolation until 14 days after their departure from China.

Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said that “we continue to take substantial steps to prevent as far as possible the entry of the coronavirus into Israel. Israeli citizens must exercise caution and follow the instructions of the Ministry of Health professionals, which are in line with WHO recommendations. Stopping Israeli entry by anyone staying in China and not residents of Israel, as well as staying in home isolation for anyone returning from China, are essential actions that prevent possible morbidity. In addition, we will ensure that anyone staying in solitary confinement receives compensation through sick leave or leave.”

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