Israel’s Health Ministry confirmed on Saturday that seven Israelis have so far tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), aka “coronavirus.” Thousands of Israelis are currently under quarantine following potential exposure to the virus.

Three of the Israelis with COVID-19 returned from Italy last week. One of the returnees’ spouses also has the disease. An additional two are under close supervision after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan. The seventh Israeli, who was believed to have been cured after being taken from the Diamond Princess to a Japanese hospital, was released to Israel on Friday and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa and Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon were also preparing isolation wards to accept coronavirus patients.

According to a report by The Marker over the weekend, as of Sunday 4,582 Israelis were under quarantine for possible exposure to the virus, including 294 students and 28 preschool children. However, the report indicates that flight records suggest the number should be at least 10,000, including all returnees from Italy in the past two weeks.

Israel’s El Al Airlines announced the suspension last week of all flights to Italy, which has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in Europe at 640 cases, and of all flights to Thailand starting on Monday.

Parents of girls attending the 600-student Rosary Sisters School in Jerusalem’s Old City expressed concern that school administrators had not taken precautions after a group of 14 students who traveled to Italy for a Model United Nations conference returned to Israel, according to a Tazpit Press Service report published on Sunday. The girls were not quarantined after they returned, according to the report.

The school’s principal said she had not reported the children to the Health Ministry and was under no obligation to do so, according to the report. However, the school’s director alleged that students wore masks and used disinfectants.

As of Feb. 28, some 83,652 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Israeli Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis announced last week that Israeli researchers at the Galilee Research Institute (MIGDAL) were as little as three weeks away from developing a coronavirus vaccine. The team, which created the vaccine against avian flu, has said that the genetics of the two viruses are very similar. The vaccine is expected to be distributed in oral form, enabling a much faster dispersal of the medication.

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