Israel is the first country to warn its citizens not to travel abroad over coronavirus fears

Tim O'Donnell

Israel on Wednesday became the first country to officially warn its citizens to avoid any international travel amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

Several airlines have canceled flights to China, where the respiratory virus originated, and governments have issued warnings about travel to certain countries, but no country has actively urged their citizens avoid traveling abroad at large until now. "If you don't genuinely have to fly — don't do so," Israel's health ministry said in a statement.

Although the majority of cases remain in China, the virus has spread to several other countries. In response to criticism that the country was stoking panic and could cause both economic and diplomatic damage, the health ministry said they'd rather deal with the inconveniences now than be sorry later, The Times of Israel reports.

The only confirmed Israeli cases so far involve people who were on a cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan, although South Korea — which is experiencing one of the larger outbreaks beyond China — reportedly informed Israel over the weekend that a members from a group of pilgrims returned to South Korea from Israel and tested positive for the disease. Read more at The Times of Israel.

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