Coronavirus strikes Israel: 1,000s now feared exposed to deadly contagion

Nine of a group of 39 pilgrims from South Korea infected with the coronavirus visited Israel between February 8-15th. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

The potential for the spread of the coronavirus in Israel grew substantially, Director General of the Ministry of Health Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov said on Saturday night.

Bar-Siman Tov made his comments after it was revealed that a group of South Koreans on a pilgrimage to Israel had been infected with the virus and had come in contact with thousands of Israelis.

The group of 39 pilgrims from South Korea visited Israel February 8-15th. It was reported on Saturday that nine of them were infected with the coronavirus.

Israel’s Health Ministry ordered that “anyone in close contact with the tourists (at least two meters) and at least for 15 minutes is obliged to go into isolation for 14 days, and if one starts to develop symptoms of disease such as a temperature above 38 celsius [100.4 Fahrenheit] or coughing, he or she should go for medical treatment.”

Bar-Siman Tov said, “We expect people to follow our instructions on home isolation not because of the fear of punishment, but because anyone who doesn’t endangers his family and other people in the state.”

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Following the revelation about the South Korean travelers, Israel turned back a South Korean plane at Ben-Gurion Airport on Saturday evening.

Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports that the South Korean government filed a formal complaint.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz told the news outlet, “There is no choice. When there is a real threat from a pathogen, [I must] instruct the Foreign Ministry to follow all of the Health Ministry’s instructions.”

Twelve Israeli nationals were allowed off the plane, which was parked far from the terminal. The passengers were taken home by ambulance.

Some 1,000 South Korean tourists are currently in Israel. They have been instructed to remain in isolation in their hotels.

Meanwhile, one of the Israelis returned from the cruise ship Diamond Princess tested positive after first testing negative for the disease. She is considered the first coronavirus case in Israel even though she was infected abroad. She is being held in isolation in Sheba hospital along with other Israeli passengers from the ship.

Over 600 people were infected on board the cruise ship.