Israel bans entry to visitors from Japan, South Korea

Israel barred entry to foreign nationals who have been to South Korea or Japan in the past two weeks.

By World Israel News and AP

As of Monday, an Israeli ban went into effect barring entry to any foreign national who has been present in South Korea and Japan during the past two weeks.

The Health Ministry took the step as the world reels from the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry also issued travel warnings to South Korea and Japan due to the coronavirus, and the Health Ministry ordered Israelis returning from those countries to remain in home quarantine, as previously ordered for those returning from Hong Kong, China, Macau, Thailand and Singapore.

The Health Ministry is also requiring Israelis who who develop coronavirus symptoms after returning from Australia, Italy and Taiwan to undergo examinations.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic row erupted over the weekend when Israel turned back a South Korean airliner, underscoring fear and tensions over the fast-spreading outbreak.

A Korean Air flight with 188 passengers that landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport Saturday evening was taxied away from the terminal while authorities allowed only 11 Israelis to enter the country. The plane returned to South Korea with the rest of the passengers on Sunday, according to airline officials.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that it was closely monitoring the incident and providing active consular assistance to South Koreans staying in Israel. It said it will evacuate South Korean tourists from Israel if necessary.

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

South Korea earlier informed Israel that a group of tourists who traveled to Israel and Judea and Samaria for a week this month tested positive for the virus upon returning home. Israeli health authorities asked people who were in close contact with the tourists to quarantine themselves.

South Korean health authorities said Sunday that 18 of the 39 South Koreans from the southeastern region who had made the group pilgrimage to sites in Israel later tested positive for the virus. She said the 21 others were being tested. Forty-one Catholic churches in their neighborhoods halted Sunday Masses and other gatherings.

Jordan said it was denying entry of non-Jordanians coming from Iran and South Korea, on top of a previous ban on those coming from China. Nationals arriving from those countries will be quarantined.

Last week, 11 Israelis returned from a cruise ship that had been quarantined off the coast of Japan for two weeks.

A total of 691 people have been infected on the ship, or nearly one-fifth of the ship’s original population of 3,711. Japan has confirmed a total of 838 cases and four deaths from the virus, including those on the ship.

South Korea’s president said Sunday that he was putting his country on its highest alert for infectious diseases and ordered officials to take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to fight a soaring viral outbreak that has infected more than 600 people in the country, mostly in the last few days.