A Korean Air flight landed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport at 7:30 pm yesterday before the Immigration and Population Authority had made a decision on whether to let Korean residents into Israel, but an ad hoc decision was made concerning this specific flight that Korean passengers would not be allowed to disembark and enter Israel.
The reason for the decision was the doubling of the number cases of coronavirus disease COVID-19 in South Korea in the past few days to 433, and the announcement by the Ministry of Health that nine tourists from South Korea had visited Israel before being diagnosed with the disease.
The Korean Air plane that landed in Israel yesterday had 200 Korean citizens on board and twelve Israelis. The plane was parked at a distance from the terminal building, and the Israeli passengers were sent to home quarantine for fourteen days. The Korean passengers were denied entry into the country and after the plane was cleaned and resupplied, had to make the twelve hour journey back to Seoul with the designated replacement crew.
Korean Air operates four flights weekly between Seoul and Tel Aviv. These flights will now presumably be suspended, like all flights between Israel and China and Hong Kong.
At this stage, there is no general order concerning South Korea, but Korean tourists now in Israel will have to enter an immediate fourteen-day quarantine, as will Israelis returning from South Korea. The order has been expanded to cover Israeli tourists returning from Japan, Macau, Singapore, and Taiwan as well. Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association director Yossi Fattal has told members of the association that groups from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan planning tours in Israel should be immediately informed that the tours are cancelled.
Israel's Ministry of Health is attempting to determine whether COVID-19 has taken hold in Israel as a result of the visit by the Korean tourists who were diagnosed with it on their return to Korea. The ministry has published the Korean tourists' itinerary along with guidelines for those who may have come into contact with them.
One woman who returned to Israel from a cruise ship in Japan has been diagnosed as carrying the virus and is in isolation at Tel Hashomer hospital. She is not thought to pose a health threat in Israel since she has been in isolation since her arrival in the country.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 23, 2020
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