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COVID-19 spreads across Israel

Israelis who had been in home-based quarantine but voted at the Klausner Street “coronavirus voting station” in Tel Aviv are required to extend their isolation by another 14 days, according to the Health Ministry.

The request came after “patient No. 15” was diagnosed with the novel virus Tuesday night.

Two other people were also diagnosed late Tuesday: a high school student from the Brenner Regional Council and an elementary school deputy principal from Kiryat Ono. Patients No. 13 and 14 both contracted the coronavirus at the Red Pirate toy store in Or Yehuda.

As a result of the student being diagnosed with the potentially lethal virus, some 1,150 students from his high school have also been asked to enter home-quarantine.

The teacher’s 27 students have also been quarantined.

“All of the instructions provided by the Health Ministry have prevented the disease from spreading,” said Education Minister Rafi Peretz. “Schools and school principals are receiving clear instructions – we are not leaving anyone to deal with this on their own.

Health Ministry director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto, who is currently under quarantine himself, posted on Facebook Wednesday to help inform the public about the spread of the coronavirus in Israel and around the world.

“At present, the disease is declining in China,” he said, “but in all other countries, we are watching the rise and spread of the disease.”

Grotto named South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland among the countries known to have high rates of the virus, but said that there are other countries about which we don’t have enough information, such as the United States.

“It is estimated that the disease is more widespread than reported and we need to make decisions based on partial information,” he said, “taking into account the differences between countries and their readiness levels.”

“Older people, over the age of 60, or people who have pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or respiratory illness, are advised to take extreme care,” Grotto noted. “The risk for children under the age of 18 is actually lower.”

He added that the possibility of one returning from a visit and being required to go into isolation is real and should be taken into account. “However, it should be noted, as there is widespread expansion [of the virus] in Israel, the risk of acquiring the disease in Israel will be no different than abroad and the Health Ministry’s recommendations will focus more on guidelines within Israel rather than travel abroad,” he said.

“We believe that widespread expansion in Israel is inevitable,” Grotto concluded. “We are currently working on estimating the extent of morbidity expected using mathematical models based on the knowledge we have on the subject from around the world.

“It seems we are looking at dealing with this for at least the next months, so we need to preserve our energy.”

Header: Electoral workers count ballots cast by Israelis under home quarantine after returning from coronavirus infected zones, in the central town of Shoham on March 4, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)