77 Israelis diagnosed with coronavirus, says Health Ministry

Police will help catch Israelis who break quarantine. No gatherings over 2,000 people. Elderly people are discouraged from attending crowded events.

A man wears a face mask for protection releted to the coronavirus as he walks in Jerusalem's Old City March 9, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)
A man wears a face mask for protection releted to the coronavirus as he walks in Jerusalem's Old City March 9, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)
A total of 77 Israelis have been infected with the novel coronavirus, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, confirming a second case of "unknown origin" and increasing fears of widespread local transmission.
The vast majority of individuals who tested positive (63) have been hospitalized, with one in a serious condition, another seven were en route to being hospitalized, three were being treated at home and three had already recovered and were released.
Police and the Health Ministry said Tuesday that they have set up dedicated task forces composed of police officers and inspectors to prevent the spread of the virus. The teams will ensure that all people in isolation comply with the ministry’s guidelines, a statement explained.
Police will have access to data about the comings and goings of civilians in and out of the country through the Interior Ministry to help them track travelers and check up on them. “We appeal to the public and seek to heed the instructions of the Health Ministry on this issue, as ignoring them disrupts the national effort to combat the virus outbreak and its spread in Israel,” the Police said. “We urge the public to act with restraint and responsibility.”
The Police emphasized that so far, “the vast majority of those in isolation obey orders and exercise civil responsibility.”
The Health Ministry further expanded its restrictions on the public as well on Thursday, forbidding community events of more than 2,000 people. Previously, the ministry allowed up to 5,000 people to gather.
“This number is expected to be updated as the situation develops,” the ministry said in a statement.
Moreover, the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry joined efforts to stop the spread of the potentially lethal coronavirus, and will now not allow family members and acquaintances to enter government nursing homes; only essential visitors will be allowed. Family visits can only take place outside the facilities.
In addition, all the out-of-home frameworks under the ministry’s supervision were instructed to prepare isolation complexes for individuals who live alone and might become in need of assistance. The ministry also froze the hiring of workers from abroad for welfare settings.
“The Health Ministry recommends that the elderly population, especially those elderly with preexisting conditions or weakened immune systems, reduce contact with others as much as possible,” a ministry statement said.
“You want to go visit grandma or grandpa and you don’t feel well or you just came back from abroad? Don’t go. You are putting them in danger,” director general of the Health Ministry Moshe Bar Siman Tov said in an interview with Channel 12.
He said that the ministry expects the number of people infected to continue to rise. At press time, the number of infected Israelis stands at 64; ministry experts are conjecturing the number will hit 100 by the weekend.
As of Tuesday night, the ministry disseminated information about most of the new patients by press time, No. 51 through 65, who contracted the potentially lethal virus by various means.
Patient No. 51, from Israel’s southern region, is the first patient to have returned to the country from Azerbaijan. He landed home on February 27.
Patient No. 52 is in his 80s from Ma’aleh Adumim. He was in contact with patient No. 28, a 60-year-old man from Jerusalem, who was in contact with a coronavirus patient from France who was in the city last week.
Patients No. 53 and 58 are both from central Israel. No. 53 is in his 40s and returned to Israel from Munich on February 27. No. 58 recently traveled to Austria. The man returned to Israel on March 7 and immediately entered quarantine. The Health Ministry described him as in good health.
Patients No. 54 and 55 are in their mid-30s. They returned to Israel from Germany on March 6 and have been in isolation since.
Patient No. 56 is a 66-year-old individual from Jerusalem who was in close contact with a known patient, and patient No. 57 is an individual in his 30s who also came in contact with someone who has the virus.
Patient No. 59 is a 60-year-old man from the southern region. He returned from Spain on March 2.
Patient No. 60 is a 29-year-old male from Jerusalem who was on a flight back to Israel on March 5 that made stops throughout Europe.
Patient No. 61 is also in his 60s. He is from central Israel and traveled back to Israel from Zurich on March 4.
Patient No. 62 is a 68-year-old from northern Israel who traveled to Spain for vacation, returning February 29. The IDF confirmed he is a career solider.
Patient No. 63 is in his 40s. He returned to Israel from Austria on March 6 and has been in quarantine since.
Patient No. 64 is 29 and recently returned to Israel from Madrid. He has been in isolation ever since.
Patient No. 65 is in his 30s from central Israel and returned to the country from France on March 7.
Patient No. 66 is 9-years-old from Tel Aviv who returned to Israel from Madrid on March 2.
Patient No. 67 is a man in his 60's from Gush Etzion who contracted the virus from a known patient in the US, and returned to Israel from New York on March 2.
Patients No. 68-69 are both from southern Israel who returned to the country from France on March 8.
Patient No. 70 is a man in his 40's from the Jordan Valley who returned to Israel from Austria via Germany on March 7.
THE NEWLY diagnosed patients were announced less than a day after the government released a set of new restrictions on the country, including that all people entering Israel from abroad will be required to spend 14 days in home isolation.
“After a day of complex discussions, we have made a decision: Whoever arrives in Israel from abroad will enter quarantine for 14 days,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement Monday. “This is a difficult decision, but it is essential to maintaining public health, which takes precedence over everything.”
He said that the decision will be in effect for two weeks and then will be re-evaluated.
On Tuesday, the prime minister also sent out a message to the public, this time about supplies.
“Regarding supplies, most supplies to the State of Israel come by sea – products, raw materials, all these things, including food. Almost all food comes by sea so there is no reason to storm the supermarkets,” the prime minister said. “There is more than enough food, and there will be more than enough food. Regarding supplies by air, we are taking all steps and measures at our disposal to ensure that here, too, there will be an orderly supply by air to Israel.”
So far, Israel knows the epidemiology of all of the people diagnosed except one, patient No. 29, who works for Magen David Adom. On Monday, days after he was diagnosed with coronavirus, his wife and two children were announced to have contracted it, too.
The family is from the small settlement of Einav, where the wife works as a preschool teacher. As a result, more than 100 people, including 33 toddlers, were instructed on Tuesday to go into quarantine.
 
There are two people that the country is already expecting to land this week and to enter quarantine after spending more than a month in isolation in a military hospital outside of Tokyo. They were the first Israelis to be diagnosed with coronavirus while aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship – Oded and Rochela Ofarim from Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha.
A spokesperson for the couple said that they have been confirmed to be healthy by Japan’s medical officials and will soon leave the Asian country. However, as noted, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, the couple will still have to enter home-isolation for 14 days upon arrival back in Israel.
Two other Israelis had also been treated at the military hospital, but were released earlier this month.
AS THE virus continues to spread around the world – according to the latest numbers at press time there are 116,000 people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus – Knesset leaders are calling on factions to come together to tackle the crisis.
“Israel is experiencing a health crisis that cannot be appropriately managed without parliamentary oversight,” said MK Avi Nissenkorn on Tuesday, noting that the Blue and White Party that he represents is working to establish a parliamentary committee to deal with coronavirus as soon as the plenary convenes this coming Monday. 
“This worsening crisis requires all Knesset members to put politics aside and to work together for the health of Israeli citizens and the protection of our economy,” Nissenkorn said. “I call upon all faction heads to support this initiative.”
On the same day, Prof. Avishai Ellis, secretary of the Internal Medicine Association, echoed Nissenkorn’s sentiments in a letter that he penned to Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz, asking them to “put aside political disputes at a time like this and work together to establish a Knesset Health Committee next week!”
The Knesset plenary is scheduled to come together next Monday, March 16, for its swearing in ceremony. Due to the spread of the coronavirus, media has been uninvited to the event. In addition, families and other supporters were asked not to attend due to the threat of infection.