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February 12, 2020 3:52 pm

Israel Asks Japan to Release Citizens on Cruise Ship Quarantined Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The cruise ship Diamond Princess, where dozens of passengers were tested positive for coronavirus, is seen through steel fence at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Issei Kato / File.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry contacted Japanese authorities on Wednesday and asked them to allow 14 Israeli citizens quarantined on a cruise ship in Japanese waters to come home.

The vessel, the Diamond Princess, has been anchored off Japan and quarantined since cases of the deadly coronavirus were discovered on board.

ABC News reported that, as of Wednesday, 174 people on the vessel had tested positive for the disease, with 39 cases in the past 24 hours alone.

According to the Israeli news site Walla, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has been in daily contact with Japanese authorities regarding the Israeli citizens on the ship. Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has also spoken personally with the Israelis via a video link.

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The Israeli Embassy in Japan is monitoring the situation as well, and ensuring that there is a regular supply of medicines and kosher food to the Israelis on board. Walla said the Japanese authorities were being completely cooperative in aiding the embassy to do so.

Shalva Dahan, one of the Israelis on the cruise ship, said family members had already contacted the Health and Foreign Ministries asking for their release.

The Israeli authorities, she said, must “make sure that we are transported directly back to Israel” without connections in other countries that might quarantine them as well.

“We want to get to Israel,” she said. “We understand that we will also need to be quarantined in Israel. I have no problem with that. Just let us get to Israel already.”

“Our mood is slowly declining,” Dahan said of the situation. “We hope we don’t fall into despair.”

“I try to be strong because of the kids,” she said of her children back in Israel. “They call and encourage us, talk to us. My husband told me, ‘Look what they’re doing for us, be stronger for them.’ So I get stronger for my kids.”

“We are in the room all day. We don’t go out,” she added. “We have one hour a day to go around the deck … and that’s it. It’s unbearable to be 23 hours in a small room.”

The coronavirus outbreak began in December in China and has since spread to dozens of other countries. As of this month, there have been 45,204 cases and 1,116 deaths as a result. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

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