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‘It’s Like the Exodus from Egypt’: Israelis Trapped on Coronavirus-Stricken Princess Cruise Finally Heading Home

02-20-2020
Israel's Ben Gurion Airport
Israel's Ben Gurion Airport

JERUSALEM, Israel – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it’s only a matter of time before the coronavirus hits Israel and leaders are working around the clock to make sure they’re ready.

The biggest priority is ensuring the safe arrival of 11 Israelis who have been quarantined on board the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship that’s been stuck off the coast of Japan since February 3. None of the Israelis have exhibited coronavirus symptoms, but they will be quarantined in the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer for two weeks upon arrival.

One Israeli told press in a video that leaving the infected cruise ship is “like the exodus from Egypt.”

“They will be flown back to Israel on a special flight and sent to Sheba Medical Center, where they will be fully examined and treated by a specially trained medical staff,” the medical center's spokesperson said. “The Israelis will be quarantined for up to two weeks in comfortable quarters on the Sheba campus away from the main hospital complex, allowing for the medical center to function in a normal manner.”

Meanwhile, four other Israelis who have contracted the deadly virus will remain in isolation on the cruise ship.

Israeli doctors at Sheba Medical Center will use advanced technology to protect themselves from any possible infection while treating the 11 Israelis. They will use robots to communicate with and examine the patients without ever having to touch them

“I just toured the special isolation facility; it is very impressive. It uses innovative technologies and methods in order to achieve maximum isolation. Of course, we hope that none of the Israelis who have been rescued from the infected ship is infected,” Netanyahu said yesterday during a government meeting about the coronavirus outbreak.

Israel has yet to diagnose a case of Coronavirus within its borders and suspended all flights from China. 

“Our policy is to prevent or postpone – as far as possible – the entry of the virus to Israel,” Netanyahu said, adding that he’d rather overprepare than be overwhelmed by an outbreak in Israel.

“We still do not know what will happen with this disease. We do not know if there is a pandemic or something more limited, such as we have seen with the flu or SARS. We do not know; therefore, we will continue this over-preparation until things become clear and perhaps even afterward.”

Netanyahu also said Israel will take steps to coordinate with neighboring countries and the Palestinian Authority to prevent the entry of the virus into Israel.

National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat also said Israel is working on a vaccine and antibodies for treatment.

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