‘Mass outbreak possible’: Israel warns of coronavirus after South Korean pilgrims test positive for disease

Israel expands travel warning to Japan, Thailand, and South Korea, but might also quarantine those returning from Italy and Australia.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

Israel is prepared for a potential “massive outbreak” of the coronavirus, says the Israel Health Ministry’s director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov.

Concerns catapulted in the Jewish State over the weekend when it was reported that several people among a group of 77 South Koreans who had been on an eight-day tour of Israel tested positive for the potentially life-threatening disease after returning home earlier this month.

On Monday, South Korea reported another large jump in the overall number of new cases in that country, a day after President Moon Jae-in called for “unprecedented, powerful” steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread.

The 231 new cases bring South Korea’s total to 833, and two more deaths raised the toll in the country to seven.

After concerns centered around China, where the initial outbreak took place, Israel on Sunday expanded a travel warning to Japan, Thailand, and South Korea.

However, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Monday that the fears were spreading even farther, telling Israel’s Army Radio that Italy and Australia could be added to the list of countries from where Israelis arriving home could be put into quarantine.

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

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin is currently on an official visit to Australia. His office said that there were no plans to change his schedule.

The Health Ministry has canceled upcoming trips for thousands of Israeli students to Poland.

In yet another move underlining the prevailing fears, it has been announced that only Israelis will run in the Tel Aviv Marathon, normally an international event, scheduled for Friday.

A second Israeli among a group that returned to Israel on Friday from a cruise ship that had been quarantined off the coast of Japan for two weeks tested positive Sunday for the virus, according to a statement from Sheba Medical Center.

The individual is in isolation at the hospital, according to Sheba, which stressed that the virus was not contracted in Israel.