Israel says cruise passenger flown home from Japan has virus


A photographer takes photos near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored at a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. Passengers tested negative for COVID-19 started disembarking since Wednesday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

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JERUSALEM (AP) — One of the 11 Israelis who were flown home after being quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan has tested positive for the new virus that emerged in China late last year, the first case to be reported inside Israel, officials said Friday.

The Israeli cruise ship passengers, who had all initially tested negative for the new coronavirus, arrived on a charter plane overnight. They were met by medics in protection suits and immediately taken to the Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv, where they will be kept in quarantine.

Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the infectious disease unit at the hospital, said all 11 were tested again upon arrival. She said a woman tested positive as a carrier of the virus but is “totally healthy” and is not exhibiting any symptoms.

“She was in a lot of stress,” Regev-Yochay said. “Obviously the whole situation is not easy.”

Another four Israelis were hospitalized in Japan after testing positive for the virus. Regev-Yochay said they are not showing any symptoms.

The new coronavirus, which causes the illness recently named COVID-19, has infected more than 76,000 people in 27 countries and caused more than 2,200 deaths since it was first reported in China’s Hubei province in December.

The Diamond Princess ship docked at a Yokohama port has the most cases of the new virus outside of China, with 634 confirmed by late Thursday. Two former passengers have died.

Dozens of foreign passengers were flown back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments.

Israel has cancelled all flights to and from China, and is requiring Israelis returning from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore or Thailand to be quarantined at home for two weeks.

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