In a dramatic statement Wednesday, Israel’s Health Ministry urged Israelis to seriously consider refraining from traveling abroad, as the country looked to isolate itself from the novel coronavirus outbreak rapidly spreading across the globe.
“If you don’t genuinely have to fly — don’t do so,” the ministry said in a travel warning.
In making the announcement, Israel became the first country to urge its citizens to refrain from international travel entirely because of the outbreak, which started in China in December and has since infected over 80,000 worldwide and claimed well over 2,000 lives, almost all of them in China.
The move comes after a series of additional countries announced they had identified cases of the virus on their soil over the past two days, including Brazil’s announcement of the first confirmed case in Latin America and uncontained outbreaks in Germany, Italy and other European countries.
Tuesday marked the first day since the start of the outbreak that more new cases were recorded abroad than in China, which has been the epicenter of the epidemic.
The statement also expanded a previous travel warning for northern Italy to the entirety of that country and ordered all Israelis returning from Italy to a 14-day home quarantine, effective immediately.
Israel has already banned the entry of any foreigners who have been to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand Singapore, South Korea and Japan in the 14 days prior.
Israeli officials said the new reports of coronavirus cases in Greece, Austria, Switzerland and Croatia, all announced over the past two days, appear to have arrived in those countries from travelers originating in Italy.