TEL AVIV – In a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Israel’s health ministry on Monday said anyone returning from a trip to China must self-impose a 14-day quarantine. Employers would also be penalized if they attempted to force people to come back to work during that time.
“We have enforcement measures and we can deploy health ministry inspectors and also get to employers,” Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, director-general of the Health Ministry, told Channel 12 news.
Bar Siman-Tov said Israelis who were in China would receive an exemption from work issued by his ministry.
“We at the ministry see the public as a central partner in our actions to prevent the spread of the disease and only together can we handle it,” he wrote on Twitter.
Even though there has been no confirmed cases of the disease in Israel, the health ministry has warned that it is only a matter of time until it reaches the country.
The death toll in China from the disease hit the 360 mark on Monday, while Israel has closed its borders to foreign nationals who have recently visited the country.
A 44-year-old man died in the Philippines, marking the first coronavirus death outside of China.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had instructed the health ministry to begin developing a vaccine against the disease.
“I have instructed the Biological Institute and the Health Ministry to work on producing a vaccine for the virus and to set up a vaccination network,” he said in a statement.
“It could be that on this issue as well, if we work fast enough, with the appropriate budgeting and the talented people we have, the State of Israel will be ahead of the world.”
“Our foremost goal is to postpone the arrival of the virus to Israel. I say ‘postpone’ because its arrival is unavoidable. We will then identify, treat, isolate and deal with those infected,” he said.
However, according to Professor Eyal Leshem, an infectious disease specialist at Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital, developing a vaccine is a lengthy process that can take months, if not years.
“We need to be sure that the vaccine prevents the disease and that it is safe to give it to thousands of people. It’s a lengthy process,” he told Channel 12.
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