Israeli aid organization IsraAID announced on Monday that it was sending a shipment of medical supplies and protective gear to China as the country grapples with the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus which has so far infected over 17,000 people in at least 23 countries and claimed the lives of more than 350 in China.
IsraAID said the shipment will go directly to the Chinese Ministry of Health for its use as it faces a severe shortage of medical supplies and protective gear particularly in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and the surrounding areas. The city and much of the Hubei province in which it is located has been placed on lockdown by Chinese authorities in an effort to contain the spread.
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IsraAID said it will continue monitoring the situation and may launch a secondary response including mental health and psychosocial support for humanitarian aid workers and first responders working in the area.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and some countries, including Israel, have restricted travel to and from China and entry to foreign nationals who had recently traveled to the country.
IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer said in a statement that it was important for the organization to do our part by sending relief supplies and sharing our expertise in the field of stress management and trauma reduction.”
“We are all very concerned about the spread of coronavirus, and we are grateful for all the courageous work done by Chinese medical teams,” he added.
Coronaviruses are a set of viruses transmitted first between animals and people that cause a range of illnesses ranging from a common cold to pneumonia to severe respiratory conditions, according to the World Health Organization. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which originated in China in 2002, and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, were caused by coronaviruses first transmitted from civet cats and dromedary camels to humans, respectively. The viruses then spread from human to human.
The origin of the new, not-yet-named coronavirus strain, has not yet been disclosed.
Though the death toll from the coronavirus is mounting, there are also recoveries following treatment. The New York Times reported on Monday that there was have 475 recoveries so far, citing China’s Health Commission.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special cabinet discussion on Sunday focused on national preparedness for dealing with the coronavirus.
Netanyahu praised the Chinese government for its efforts to contain the spread of the virus but said “its arrival is unavoidable.” He indicated that the relevant agencies were putting procedures into place to isolate those infected and to treat them.
He also said he instructed the Health Ministry and the Israeli Institute for Biological Research, a governmental research institute specializing in biology, chemistry and environmental sciences and which falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office, to work on producing a vaccine for the virus.
“If we work fast enough, with the appropriate budgeting and the talented people we have, the State of Israel will be ahead of the world,” he said according to a press statement.