Israel on guard as coronavirus fear lingers

Israeli paramedics at a coronavirus national operations centre unload a containment chamber during a response training exercise in the central Israeli city of Kiryat Ono (AFP Photo/JACK GUEZ)

Kiryat Ono (Israel) (AFP) - Israeli first responders were on high alert Wednesday at a coronavirus nerve centre, as the health ministry issued new recommendations to avoid contracting the virus.

A designated hotline launched on Saturday has been fielding around 6,500 calls a day, according to the Magon David Adom emergency services.

The coronavirus response centre in the central town of Kiryat Ono is to send experts to take samples from Israelis in home quarantine, including those who encountered a group of South Korean pilgrims who were later found to have been carrying the coronavirus.

"People are anxious and worried. They call saying they were near the Korean tourists in Beersheba, but not at the same time. We explain they are not among the group at risk," said Yael Arava, a paramedic trained to deal with coronavirus.

Nearly 200 pupils who were in proximity to the South Koreans during their February 8-15 visit were ordered to stay home for 14 days.

Anyone who was in contact with the group should self-quarantine, the health ministry said.

Israel has only two confirmed cases of people testing positive for the new coronavirus, both from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The health ministry on Wednesday called on Israelis to "consider refraining from the necessity of flying abroad at all".

Under anti-coronavirus measures, Israelis returning from Japan, South Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore or Thailand must observe a 14-day home-quarantine.