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Israel Returns Non-Israelis on Flight from S. Korea over Coronavirus Fears

Israel Returns Non-Israelis on Flight from S. Korea over Coronavirus Fears

Sunday, 23 February, 2020 - 06:00
An airliner that arrived from South Korea at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on Saturday. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Israel on Saturday refused to allow some 200 non-Israelis to disembark from a plane which arrived from South Korea, as part of measures against the new coronavirus, the health ministry said.

It said the plane was made to return to South Korea, after the 12 Israeli passengers on board were taken away in ambulances waiting at Tel Aviv to be quarantined.

Yonhap news agency cited Seoul’s Foreign Ministry as registering a strong protest with the Israeli government.

The Foreign Ministry told Israel that no excessive, unreasonable measures should be taken against South Korean nationals, according to the report.

The Foreign Ministry said Sunday that it was closely monitoring the reported incident and providing active consular assistance to South Koreans staying in Israel under close consultations with authorities there. It said it will evacuate South Korean tourists from Israel at an early date if necessary.

A day after confirming its first case of the COVID-19 virus, Israel on Saturday banned all flights from both South Korea and Japan.

A cut in air links with China has been in force since January, and Israel has also refused entry to people who have recently visited or are resident in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore or Thailand.

Israel confirmed its first case of the virus in one of its nationals who had earlier this week flown home from Japan after being quarantined on the stricken cruise ship Diamond Princess.

Nine South Korean tourists who stayed in Israel last week were diagnosed with COVID-19 on their return home last week, Israel's health ministry said on Saturday, but it was unclear where they contracted the virus.

The ministry listed the sites they had visited on its website and asked Israelis who may have come into contact with them to self-quarantine and contact health services.

Since it emerged in December, the new coronavirus has killed 2,345 people in China, the epicenter of the epidemic, and 17 elsewhere in the world.

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