Over 1,200 Israeli soldiers quarantined amid coronavirus outbreak

RNA - The military spokesperson's unit reported on Friday that most of the quarantined Israeli forces had returned from vacation outside the occupied territories, while the remaining came in contact with confirmed carriers of the coronavirus in Israel. 

It noted that some 189 additional soldiers had completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine and returned to their original units.

So far, a total of 21 Israelis have tested positive for the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province.

Israel has banned entry to foreigners from China, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland in the 14 days prior to arriving.

In addition, all Israelis returning from those states have been instructed to enter self-quarantine for two weeks.

Israel's health ministry has also banned social gatherings of over 5,000 people.

According to the ministry, 3,694 high school students, pre-school children and individuals in the education system have been placed in isolation due to fears that they have contracted the novel coronavirus.

Israel's Channel 12 TV reported that the total number of Israelis in quarantine has reached at least 80,000.

On Wednesday, Israel canceled a major joint military drill with the United States, dubbed Juniper Cobra, over coronavirus fears. 

Saudi Arabia restricts entry to kingdom

In a separate development on Saturday, Saudi Arabia limited land crossings with the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain to commercial trucks only as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that arrivals from the kingdom's three neighboring countries had been temporarily limited to King Khalid International Airport in the capital Riyadh, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam.

With regard to the entry of Saudi citizens and expatriates in the Kingdom, who come from the three countries, this procedure will enter into force at 11:55 pm on Saturday March 7, 2020.#SPAGOV

— SPAENG (@Spa_Eng) March 7, 2020

"Whoever wishes to come to the Kingdom by a new visa or a valid visa, from any country where the risk of the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID 19) ... must submit the laboratory certificate PCR proven free of infection with COVID 19. This applies to those who resided in those countries during the (14) days prior to entering the Kingdom," the SPA quoted an official source at the Saudi Interior Ministry as saying.

"The air carrier must ensure that the PCR laboratory certificate is valid, and that it is new and issued within the twenty-four hours prior to the passenger boarding," he added.

Saudi Arabia also temporarily closed holy sites in Mecca and Medina to domestic and foreign pilgrims over the coronavirus concerns. Mecca is home to the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine at the Grand Mosque.

The kingdom says to date it has at least five cases of the coronavirus infection, whose symptoms are fever, cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

The illness, which may cause lung lesions and pneumonia, is now spreading in Europe and across the Middle East, sparking fears of a global pandemic.

Since December 2019, over 102,240 people have been infected worldwide, with more than 3,490 deaths mostly in China.

Last week, the World Health Organization announced that the coronavirus outbreak has reached the “highest level” of risk for the world.