People wear masks to protect from coronavirus
People wear masks to protect from coronavirusiStock

Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Professor Itamar Grotto spoke Tuesday with 103FM Radio about the new coronavirus and his own self-quarantine.

Professor Grotto, who recently returned from Japan, clarified: "We know that the coronavirus has been around for thousands of years, and every so often it transfers from animals to humans, in some fashion."

"You start getting used to it, this is how it is right now," he said, noting that he is on his third day of quarantine. "I stay only in my bedroom or study. I have a separate bathroom and shower and when I leave one of those areas of the house - I have someone at home who is like part of the family - I put on a mask."

Prof. Grotto was scheduled to finish his quarantine this weekend, but "coincidentally I was on the flight with the Koreans who were on their way to Japan" and therefore an extra week was added. He also said that he does not fear the virus, because he was "in very protected contact with them, with maximum protection."

He also said that according to the statistics he has, over 1,400 Israelis have been ordered to self-quarantine after returning from affected countries.

"I assume that there are many who did not report, maybe 2,000. You need to fill out a form to report it - I also did that."

"The difficulty is obvious, this isn't pleasant," he added.

Regarding rumors that COVID-19 was genetically engineered, Prof. Grotto said: "When I studied medicine, they taught us that first of all you think, 'what's common is common' and not to assume theories. In this case we know that the virus has been around for thousands of years and every so often it transfers from animals to people. With regards to its genetic analysis, you can go backwards in the chain and discover its evolution. It's similar to others, so it's reasonable to say that that's what happened in this case as well."

Corrin Gideon, a Keshet 12 television presenter currently in Italy, told 103FM: "No one here has a mask, everyone is in the streets, there isn't an atmosphere of emergency. It seems to me like the panic in Israel is more serious than what's happening here."

"There are guidelines for seven northern regions, right now we're not included in those. I really hope it stays that way, it hasn't reached here, and I hope it doesn't surprise us."

Golan Yochpaz of Hadashot 10 questioned how Rome's media was handling the issue: "Like everyone else in the world, they're also concerned about coronavirus over here. It caught everyone unprepared. I think that the Italians are a bit behind us, since they don't know where it started and how it happened so fast."

Prof. Grotto said that as of now, Israelis returning from Italy "do not need to quarantine themselves. Our guidelines are only to measure your temperature and watch for symptoms, but things are dynamic. In Italy on Friday there were three cases, and today there are already 219. This is a process that is happening very fast and it could be that in two days it'll reach Rome."