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Israel widens China travel ban over growing coronavirus fears

More than 300 people have died from the novel coronavirus [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 February, 2020

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Foreign nationals who have travelled to China within the past two weeks will not be allowed to enter Israel.
Israel on Saturday widened its border restrictions to bar anyone who has visited China in the past two weeks in a bid to keep the country clear of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, the country banned all flights from China amid growing fears of a global pandemic.

Saturday's interior ministry announcement went further, blocking passengers from third countries if they had been in China at any time in the past 14 days.

The ban covers air and sea ports as well as land crossings from neighbouring Jordan and Egypt.

However, the order does not apply to Israeli citizens.

Israelis who have been in China have been told to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

Two weeks is the presumed incubation period for the deadly virus, which originated in China's Hubei province late last year.

There have been no recorded incidents of coronavirus in Israel yet, but the health ministry said on Wednesday it was "a matter of time".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will on Sunday convene government ministers, top civil servants, health officials and the head of Israel's National Security Council to assess the country's preparedness, a statement from the premier's office said.

"We are aware of the fact that it will be impossible to completely prevent the entry of the virus," it quoted him as saying.  

"Therefore, we will be prepared in advance to deal with the virus after its first entry to Israel."

The broadened ban is the most stringent measure enacted by any country in the Middle East and North Africa region so far to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the epicenter of which is Hubei province capital Wuhan. The United States, New Zealand and Australia have also barred the entry of foreign nationals who have travelled from or transited through China.

Iraq's Basra International Airport on Saturday announced it would refuse entry to travelers of any nationality travelling into the country from China. A number of countries in the region, including Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, have introduced screening measures at airports.

The only country in the region to have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus so far is the UAE, where five cases have been confirmed.

Earlier this week, Sudan's healthy ministry said it had noted two suspected cases of the virus, which have not been confirmed.

On Sunday, health officials in the Philippines announced the first death from the virus outside of mainland China.

In total, 305 people have died from the novel coronavirus, of which there are more than 14,300 confirmed cases worldwide. 

So far, the majority of the victims were elderly individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes and liver cirrhosis.

Around 160 of those cases are located in 26 countries or territories outside of mainland China.

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