Israel turns away South Korean tourists, brings Israelis home with special ambulances

COVID-19 Coronavirus death toll in China now at more than 2,200, over 400 cases in South Korea.

Chana Roberts ,

Magen David Adom prepares for the coronavirus
Magen David Adom prepares for the coronavirus
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Twelve Israeli tourists arrived from South Korea Saturday night, and the Health Ministry has ordered them to self-quarantine themselves at home.

The others on the Korean Air flight have been sent back to Seoul, where the flight originated.

On Saturday, South Korean officials confirmed that 229 new cases were diagnosed since Friday, bringing the total number in the country to 433. So far, two people have died in the country.

To prevent the Israelis from infecting others on their way home, they have been transported by Magen David Adom (MDA) staff, who have taken precautions including special suits, masks, hats, and glasses, according to the customary protocol. After the travelers have been returned home, the vehicles in which they traveled will be disinfected using a special system.

"Magen David Adom staff are prepared throughout the year, and act with skill and professionalism in any case in which they are asked to provide medical treatment and evacuation of patients suspected of infection with an infectious disease," MDA's Medical Department Head Rami Miller said. "Magen David Adom paramedics are safely evacuating the passengers who arrived from South Korea, while protecting themselves completely against infection."

MDA Director-General Eli Bin said: "Magen David Adom was prepared ahead of time for the self-quarantine of travelers arriving in Israel after visiting South Korea. The paramedics who are evacuating them are protected via complete suits intended for cases such as this, so that they will not be at risk. MDA is working in complete cooperation and coordination with the Health Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Airports Authority, and other bodies, and will continue doing everything it can to aid the national effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Israel."

Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov on Saturday evening held a meeting to discuss the exposures in Israel due to a group of South Korean tourists, nine of whom came down with the virus after returning to South Korea...

"Those who came in contact with these people need to quarantine themselves at home. That's an order, not a request. If we do not keep these guidelines, the disease will spread widely throughout Israel. We estimate that there is potential for the group to have infected others," he said.

He also noted that the Health Ministry has decided to add Japan and South Korea to the list of countries from which travelers must quarantine themselves for a period of 14 days: "We have seen that the number of cases in South Korea has began to rise, and has jumped significantly in the past day. In Japan the number of cases has risen as well, and we suggest rethinking trips there. The guidelines regarding China now affect these countries as well - Japan and South Korea. We are investigating other destinations as well, such as Taiwan."

On Saturday, Israel's Health Ministry confirmed that nine South Koreans, who returned recently from visiting Israel, have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Education Ministry has announced that thirty students and two teachers from the Makif Tuviyahu school in Be'er Sheva spent time with the infected South Koreans.

All thirty-two have been ordered to quarantine themselves at home between Sunday and Thursday. An additional teacher is undergoing testing in Be'er Sheva's Soroka Medical Center.

In a Facebook post, Israel's Health Ministry listed the times and places of exposure, but added that additional times and locations may be added. COVID-19 may remain on surfaces for up to 48 hours.

The list is currently as follows:

February 8 - after 8:00p.m. at the Migdal David Hotel in Netanya, and at the Gallery Hotel.

February 9 - Caesaria, the Gavriel Hotel in Nazareth, the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Holy Family Church, and the Ein Gev Hotel.

February 10 - the Ein Gev Hotel, the Tanureen restaurant, the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, and the Church of the Multiplication.

February 11 - the David Hotel at the Dead Sea.

February 12 - Masada, Timna Park, the Leonardo Negev Hotel in Be'er Sheva.

February 13 - the National Park in Be'er Sheva, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, the Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem.

February 14 - the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem - Bethphage, the Chapel of the Ascension, the Church of the Pater Noster, the Dominus Flevit Church, the Gethsemane church. Mount Zion - the Last Meal room, the grave of Miriam, and the church of Gallicantu.

February 15 - the Jerusalem Gold restaurant, Ein Kerem - the Holy John Church, the Church of the Visitation, the Church of Saint Anne, the Sheep's Blessing Church (Bethseda), the Holy Grave Church, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of Anastasis.




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