Israelis Demand Family Members on Coronavirus-Ridden Ship Return Home

An Israeli flag hangs inside a cabin of the cruise ship Diamond Princess as workers and officers prepare to transfer passengers tested positive for the novel coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, Monday. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

There are 17 Israelis aboard the Diamond Princess, the ship that remains anchored in the Yokohama harbor with its full coterie of passengers. Japanese officials will not allow the passengers to disembark over concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. And on Wednesday, dozens of family members of those stranded Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, demanding that the government do something to get them off the ship.

As of Wednesday, some 130 people on the ship have been evacuated to emergency medical centers in Japan after it was determined that they had contracted the disease. But there are still approximately 3,700 passengers aboard, isolated in their rooms, and they are set to remain there until at least February 19.

That is far too long, the family members said. All of the Israelis are pensioners, and under the headline “Our parents are not criminals,” the group sent a letter to various government offices, including the Foreign and Health Ministries, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office, demanding that the state act to get their loved ones off the ship.

“Japan is conducting the biggest isolation experiment in history,” the family members wrote. “We are not prepared to allow our parents and grandparents to be a part of this experiment. Israel cannot allow Japan to do whatever it wants with its citizens. Our parents are not criminals, their only ‘crime’ was to take a vacation. The conditions on the ship have deteriorated to the point where healthy people are now also at risk. We demand that a safe area be set up here in Israel, with proper engineering and medical infrastructure, and allow our family members to remain in isolation there.”

In its daily coronavirus update Wednesday, the Health Ministry said that no cases of the disease have been found in Israel so far. Some 140 individuals have been examined for symptoms similar to coronavirus, but were found to be suffering from other diseases, mostly the flu. “With that, the ministry’s working assumption is that the virus will reach Israel at some point, and we continue to prepare for that,” the ministry said.

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