First Israelis Leave Coronavirus Ship

Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan which was converted to receive coronavirus patients on February 17, 2020. (Flash90)

The coronavirus quarantine saga ended on Wednesday for two of the Israelis who were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, and ten more are set to be released on Thursday, while three others, who were infected, remain in a Japanese hospital for the duration of their treatment.

“We are happy to get off the ship, but at the same time we will remain concerned until all the Israelis are off,” Edna and Henry Ben Shabbat were quoted as saying in media reports.

“We are feeling well,” they added. “During our release we underwent many examinations before we boarded the bus.”

The passengers will be returning to Israel on a jet chartered by several private insurance companies, in coordination with the Foreign and Health Ministries.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said in a statement Wednesday that it was prepared to receive the patients, with teams of paramedics wearing protective gear set to transport them in ambulances that will then be disinfected.

On Tuesday Israel’s consul to Japan, Revital Ben Naim, and Israeli epidemiologist Ran Nir-Paz visited the two military hospitals where the infected Israelis are being held in quarantine — a couple at one location and a man at another.

Nir-Paz reported that the patients are “evidently in mild condition” and are receiving good care from Japanese medical teams.

The Health Ministry sent Nir-Paz, of the Hadassah Medical Center in Yerushalayim, to Japan to check on the condition of the infected Israelis.

Meanwhile, another Israeli citizen was enabled to leave virus-stricken Hubei province in China, where he had been pursuing his martial arts studies in a rural village, the Israeli embassy in Beijing reported.

The embassy assisted Tomer Zevulun in obtaining permits for departure from the area, which has been under quarantine since the outbreak. He flew to Ukraine en route to Israel.

Israeli ambassador to China, Tzvi Heifetz, told 103 FM of another Israeli who was extricated with their help.

“From another village in China, which is in complete quarantine, we were able to remove another Israeli, who went to study Tai Chi and got stuck there. We sent him a special vehicle and we had to make an effort and get him special permits to get him out.”

In Israel on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ responded to the financial plight of Israeli airlines, hit hard by flight cancellations.

Sheba Medical Center, February 17, 2020. (Flash90)

“I ask that the Finance Minister compensate the businesses that have been hurt, such as airlines and any other body. We are here in an event due to an outside force and we, as a nation, must deal with those who have been hurt in this matter, including citizens who have been infected and require special treatment, and, of course, businesses as well. We will do whatever needs to be done, with a steady hand at the wheel, and I think that the citizens of Israel need to know that there is a serious network here; in my view it is one of the best if not the best in the world in dealing with this phenomenon,” he said during a tour of the isolation facility at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer with Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman.

Referring to reports earlier in the week that officials in the Foreign Ministry were complaining that travel bans imposed by the Ministry on Asian countries were harming Israel’s relations with them, Rabbi Litzman said:

“I am aware of the criticism of us that we are being too strict. Both the directives and we have said that we must be strict in order to prevent the virus from entering. With G-d’s help, we have succeeded up until now. We are facing a new phase. We are currently entering a new stage. We are bringing people back from there. We are prepared. We re-examine ourselves every day and are strict where we need to be.

Noting that the March 2 elections posed a special challenge for quarantined persons, he said that “regarding the elections, I had a meeting with the director general of the Central Elections Committee. We want to give anyone in isolation the right to vote. There will be special polling places where they can go.”

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