Fourth Israeli tests positive, transferred to Japanese hospital

Ilana Ben David and her family members during the cruise on the Diamond Princess. (photo credit: ILAN BEN DAVID)
Ilana Ben David and her family members during the cruise on the Diamond Princess. (photo credit: ILAN BEN DAVID)


Nicole Ben David, 51, a mother of four, went on a cruise in the Far East on the Diamond Princess to accompany her mother, Brurya, on a trip with her siblings. Since her father could not go, she took his place on the 21-day-long voyage that included a stopover in Tokyo and a fortnight sailing around East Asia, including ports in Vietnam and Hong Kong.

“When they left, nobody was talking about the coronavirus outbreak,” her husband, Ilan Ben David, told The Jerusalem Post. There was no news about how the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic could affect the trip.

“Until the last day, the cruise was wonderful, full of experiences and fun activities,” he said. “They did not perceive, nor were they told, that anything was wrong.”

On the final day, however, when the passengers were supposed to disembark in Yokohama Port, they were told they would be quarantined onboard the ship for 14 days.

“When this news fell on them, all of the family members, who were divided in five rooms in different areas of the ship, tried to cope, supporting each other and giving each other strength,” Ilan Ben David said.

At the beginning, they maintained a positive attitude, trying to follow the instructions – wear masks, wash their hands, keep the door open when food was delivered for the shortest possible amount of time – and to consider it as a form of experience. However, as the number of sickened passengers and staff aboard the stricken ship grew, the tension also rose, both among those quarantined and their families in Israel.

“We created a chat group with all the family members. It really functioned as a war room,” Ilan Ben David told the Post. “We got in contact with all the other relatives, the airlines, the cruise line, Chabad and the [Israeli] Embassy, and things slowly gained steam to help them with their needs.”

Eleven of the 15 Israelis quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess departed Thursday on a charter plane and were expected to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport at 3 a.m. on Friday.

Twelve Israelis were supposed to be on the 14-seat private jet, but at the last minute, a fourth passenger tested positive for coronavirus and was transferred to a Japanese hospital. Three other infected Israelis are recovering in Japanese military hospitals.

On Thursday, a video of the Israelis boarding the bus and singing “Am Yisrael Chai” was disseminated to the press, and images of the group boarding the plane were posted.

Magen David Adom will meet the aircraft upon its arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport and transfer the 11 travelers to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, in Ramat Gan, where they will be quarantined for 14 days.

Ilan Ben David said the general feeling was that although the Israeli authorities, including Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and President Reuven Rivlin, were following the case and were in touch with them, they did not seem to prioritize the situation.

“As the numbers of infected increased, we started to be worried and began to wonder why the country wasn’t moving things along a little more quickly to bring them in, expedite procedures with the Japanese authorities and with the embassy,” Ilan Ben David said.

“In the end, in the small group of Israelis four got infected,” he said, adding that among them is also one of their family members, without giving details.

Asked if he is happy that Nicole is coming home, he noted that she will spend another two weeks in isolation at the Sheba Medical Center. “This is not home,” he said.

Neither he nor their children – ages 25, 23, 17 and 12 – will be able to visit her.

Ilan Ben David said he and his family do not fully understand why this is necessary, considering that his wife has already been declared cleared by the Japanese government.

“However, if this is what the state has decided for the good of the country, she is prepared to pay the price,” he said, adding how difficult it has been to be apart for so long in such a tense situation.

“What does not really make sense is that I hear that other people coming back from the Far East go in home isolation without any oversight, and even tourists enter from Ben-Gurion freely,” Ilan Ben David said. “But I think the state is investing a lot to make sure this quarantine is done in the best possible way. We all hope that everyone will come out healthy and well, and we will end this saga as soon as possible.”

There have been 75,781 people infected since the coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, last December. Of those, 16,917 have recovered, while 2,130 have died. The virus has spread to 30 countries and territories, including Iran and Egypt. No cases have been reported in Israel.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post