Relatives of 15 Israelis in quarantine for coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship have appealed to Japanese authorities to allow them to return home.
The ship with 3,700 passengers and crew on board has been docked in Yokohama since February 5 and will remain until Wednesday. Japan’s Health Ministry has confirmed 135 cases of the virus have been detected to date on the stricken liner.
“We are not prepared to take part in this experiment,” noted family members in a joint letter.
Reports of an Israeli woman on board suffering from flu-like symptoms appeared in the media though a diagnosis is unknown.
Lena Samoylov reportedly told Israeli media the group was trying not to panic but the situation was stressful as they did not know whether passengers had contracted the virus before or after boarding the ship.
Japan’s Health Minister, Katsunobu Kato, said authorities were doing their utmost to keep everyone in good health.
Back in Israel as the global situation escalates the Health Ministry confirmed 140 people had been tested for the virus and the country was prepared for a positive case when it occurs.
Medical kits are available hospitals in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Be’er Sheva.
Israel’s Health Ministry announced an extension of travel warnings to East Asian countries last weekend. Among destinations are Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Honk Kong, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Thai Ambassador to Israel Penprapa Vongkovit voiced concern.
“We are not aware that other countries have issued the recommendations Israel has,” she said.
“When people hear about the recommendation of the Israeli Health Ministry, it becomes confusing and they think it is a ban. We want people to receive accurate information to avoid any confusion.”
The ministry also announced new preventive measures.
However, the Foreign Ministry slammed new precautions as causing “unprecedented” political damage.
“Israel is the first in the world to take such a step,” noted the department.
Anyone returning from countries in the extended warning period cannot appear in public spaces for 14 days, returning travelers with possible symptoms must go straight to the nearest clinic or hospital. Anyone in contact with a confirmed patient of coronavirus, with a temperature above 38 Celsius, a cough, heavy breathing or other respiratory symptom must also get tested.
El Al cancelled flights to Hong Kong this week. This follows a flight ban to Beijing last month.
The scale of the issue has hit financial markets globally.
There was hope earlier this week the virus was being contained, but China has reported mainland deaths had passed the 1,000 mark, a figure passing an epidemic of SARS fatalities.
A number of Hubei Health Commission senior officials have been ‘demoted’ over their handling of the coronavirus outbreak. They include the deputy director of the local Red Cross, Zhang Qin, who was given a “serious intra-Party warning” according to state media.
Over 42,000 cases have been now confirmed across the country. Over three-quarters of deaths have been in Wuhan, centre of the outbreak. The city of 11 million has been in lockdown for a number of weeks.
Chinese authorities have been criticised for its handling of the crisis.
Aside from the Diamond Princess saga, Thailand has not allowed passengers from another cruise ship to disembark in spite of no confirmed infections aboard.
In the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the crisis would continue for some time.
“Dealing with this disease is a marathon, not a sprint,” he told MPs in the Commons. “The situation will get worse before it gets better. We will be guided by the science. Be in no doubt, we will do everything that is effective to tackle this virus and keep people safe.”
The government issued new powers to keep people in quarantine to stop the virus spreading on Monday.
The World Health Organisation has named the new coronavirus COVID-19 as other names were “inaccurate or stigmatising”.
The main signs of infection are a fever and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with ill people, not touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, can cut risk of infection.
Anyone experiencing symptoms, even mild, after travelling from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau, is advised to stay indoors and call the NHS 111 phone service.