Israelis on 'Diamond Princess' cruise ship expected home Thursday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says closing borders to citizens of Southeast-Asia will not affect relations, economy

Isolation room featuring a sensor that can monitor patients (photo credit: SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER)
Isolation room featuring a sensor that can monitor patients
(photo credit: SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER)
The 12 Israelis who have been quarantined aboard the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship should be back in Israel by Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The ministry, working with the country’s three major insurance carriers – Harel, Clal and Migdal – has arranged for a 14-seat private jet to fly from Thailand to Tokyo on Wednesday to pick up the Israelis after they complete their medical examinations in Japan. Upon their return, they will spend 14 days in isolation in a special hospital unit being designed at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, as instructed by the Health Ministry.
The facility will be housed in a building adjacent to the main hospital as a precaution to not infect other patients. The hospital allowed the media to photograph the location on Tuesday.
Sheba will have "robots" that will monitor patients to help reduce the amount of time that nurses or other medical staff will need to spend in their rooms (Credit: Sheba Medical Center)Sheba will have "robots" that will monitor patients to help reduce the amount of time that nurses or other medical staff will need to spend in their rooms (Credit: Sheba Medical Center)
The Israeli Embassy in Tokyo is handling all of the aircraft’s landing arrangements in Japan and other logistics. The plane will be manned by a foreign crew.
Japan is slated to lift the ship’s quarantine around 4 a.m. Israel time on Wednesday.
The three Israelis – a couple and a single woman – who contracted the coronavirus will remain hospitalized in Japan.
Israeli consul to Japan Revital Ben Naim and Prof. Ran Nir-Paz from Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center met with the infected Israelis on Tuesday. They said the patients, who are being treated in Japanese military hospitals, are in stable condition and being well taken care of.
In an interview with Israel’s 103FM, Nir-Paz praised Japan’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The Japanese, very wisely, have been able to prevent the virus from spreading throughout Japan or to the countries of origin of the ship’s passengers,” he said.
People who stayed on the ship were undoubtedly at greater risk for catching Covid-19, Nir-Paz said. Some 500 people contracted the virus out of the 3,700 passengers and crew members who were onboard.
It is likely that the Israeli patients will be released within a week and then could fly back to Israel on a standard aircraft, unable to spread the disease or to catch it, he said, adding that their symptoms were particularly mild.
“The State of Israel remains better prepared than any other country” to tackle the coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Army Radio on Tuesday. “Neither the Israeli economy nor its foreign relations will be harmed by the government’s decision to ban citizens of Thailand, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong from entering the country without first going into a 14-day quarantine.”
“I reject this assertion outright,” he said, noting that measures like these have been key to preventing the virus from entering Israel.
On Sunday, the Health Ministry instructed that all people returning to Israel from China, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days.
On Monday, Interior Minister Arye Deri said Israel would prohibit anyone without citizenship from entering the country who recently visited or traveled through various Southeast Asian destinations.
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman met with National Security Council members to discuss methods that could be used to ensure that Israelis who return from those countries adhere to their quarantine, but no new measures have been put in place, Channel 12 reported.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry instructed citizens to stay updated “through the authorized bodies in the Health Ministry” and try to stay away from “fake news” about the spread of the virus, which it said has been wildly circulating on social networks.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization said there have been nine confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Eight cases were reported by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health and Prevention, and one case was reported by the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population. According to WHO, some of those in the region who contracted the disease have already fully recovered and been released from the hospital.
According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, as of Tuesday, 73,336 cases of the virus have been confirmed, and 1,874 people have died from it.