Photo Credit: Flash 90
El Al plane touches down at Ben Gurion Airport runway.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced Thursday he would sign a ban to bar foreign travelers from entering Israel from Italy following the diagnosis of Israel’s first patient with COVID-19 novel coronavirus — a traveler who had returned from Italy.

Israelis returning home from Italy have been instructed to travel directly to their homes and self-quarantine for 14 days, preferable one person to a room.

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Israel’s national carrier, El Al Airlines announced the same day it was canceling all flights to Milan, Venice and Rome effective Friday Feb. 28 until March 14. Flights to Naples operated by Sun d’Or, the El Al subsidiary, are also canceled.

Flights to Bangkok, Thailand, are frozen beginning March 2 until March 27. The much-anticipated launch of direct flights to Tokyo on March 11 has been postponed to April 4.

The renewed flights to Beijing and Hong Kong are not to be rescheduled until May 2.

Death Tolls, Infections Spreading Worldwide
Italy is the country with Europe’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, with 17 deaths from the illness and 650 more currently infected.

The first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus was diagnosed in the Netherlands on Thursday, Dutch health authorities said. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health said in a statement the patient, who is in the southern city of Tilburg, had recently traveled in northern Italy, Reuters reported.

In South Korea, the death toll from the virus stood at 13 on Thursday, with a total of 2,022 confirmed cases of the illness in the country, according to the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (KCDC).

In the United States, Vice President Mike Pence has been placed in charge of coordinating the national response to the epidemic. Thousands of Americans are under quarantine at present, having returned from placed abroad where the virus has been an exposure risk.

In the state of California alone, more than 8,400 people who arrived on commercial flights are being monitored for coronavirus symptoms from “points of concern,” Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters on Thursday. However, the state only has 200 test kits.

It was in California the first coronavirus case of unknown origin was reported.

The female patient has become the first case of the virus spreading entirely within US communities. She was not initially tested for the virus because she did not meet the CDC criteria, according to a statement by UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where she is being treated.

At least 33 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in California, but five have since left the state, officials told Reuters.

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that even rich nations should prepare [for an epidemic] since new infections reported worldwide now surpass those in mainland China. “No country should assume it won’t get cases, that would be a fatal mistake, quite literally,” Tedros said.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.