Foreign Ministry Asks Japan to Release Israelis from Quarantined Ship

YERUSHALAYIM -
israel coronavirus
The cruise ship Diamond Princess, where dozens of passengers were tested positive for coronavirus, is seen through steel fence at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan, Tuesday. (Reuters/Issei Kato/File)

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has formally requested of Japan that it release the Israelis on board a ship quarantined because of coronavirus, asking the authorities to consider “other quarantine possibilities,” according to a statement on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, officials are doing what they can to ease the plight of about 15 Israelis on the Diamond Princess cruise vessel. “The Israeli embassy in Japan is taking care to ensure that the Israeli citizens are receiving… regular supply of medicine and kosher food,” the ministry said.

The Ministry is also working to obtain a letter from Japanese officials allowing the Israelis on board to fly back to Israel when the quarantine period ends.

“We’ll make every effort to bring the Israelis on the corona[virus] ship back to Israel, while strictly following the required conditions to protect the public,” Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said.

Japan’s health ministry said earlier today that 39 new cases of the life-threatening virus were confirmed on the ship, bringing the total to 174.

A senior Health Ministry official said that the Japanese Health Ministry told their Israeli counterparts that the Israelis are due to be released from quarantine by next week, according to the news site Kipa. However, the official stipulated that they will probably have to undergo a period of quarantine after their arrival in Israel.

Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman told the KAN broadcaster that he hopes the Israelis on board aren’t infected. However, if they are, the ministry is preparing to provide treatment for them in Israel.

The Ministry said on Tuesday that it’s developing new guidelines for treating the virus, in the event there are confirmed cases in the country. The guidelines will be patterned after those of other countries which have had experience fighting the virus.

The ministry has also ordered a shipment of eight million protective masks and other equipment, and has set aside several hundred hospital beds for potential cases.

Meanwhile, El Al Airlines said on Wednesday it was “temporarily stopping” flights to Hong Kong, where cases of coronavirus have been reported.

Six weekly flights will be suspended until March 20, and the carrier said it will be shifting some operations to European and North American markets for the duration.

Its ban on flights to Beijing will also be extended, from March 25 until April 24. All flights were halted to the Chinese capital on January 30.

Flights to Bangkok will also be scaled down, from a twice-daily service to once-daily on certain days.

However, El Al said it still plans to inaugurate non-stop flights to Tokyo “as scheduled” on March 11.

Early on Wednesday, the company notified the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that it expects its revenues to decrease by approximately $30 million during the first quarter of 2020 due to the impact of the virus.

The carrier said revenues had been impacted by the virus, “primarily for destinations in the East.” Despite the expected drop in revenues, the company said it expects to offset the losses through a reduction in operating costs.


Updated Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 3:35 pm el al