דרום קוריאנים בנתב"ג
South Korean tourists stranded at Ben-Gurion Airport
Photo: Nadav Abas
South Korean tourists stranded at Ben-Gurion Airport

Israel to quarantine 200 South Korean tourists for coronavirus

The group will be in isolation at IDF base near Jerusalem where no soldiers will be stationed during period; local residents protest decision to send suspected virus carriers to their area; education minister nixes Holocaust memorial visits to Poland due to outbreak in Europe

Elisha Ben Kimon, Gilad Cohen |
Published: 02.23.20 , 15:50
The Israel Defense Forces is preparing to quarantine some 200 visitors from South Korea at a military base near Jerusalem over fears of a coronavirus outbreak.
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  • The move comes after 18 South Korean pilgrims who recently visited Israel tested positive for the virus upon their return home.
    דרום קוריאנים בנתב"גדרום קוריאנים בנתב"ג
    South Korean tourists stranded at Ben-Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Nadav Abas)
    The Health Ministry is coordinating the quarantine of the 200 with the National Security Council, which has been tasked with working with government agencies to deal with the coronavirus.
    The quarantine was initially supposed to take place at a recreation site in the southern city of Ashkelon but was changed at the weekend to the base in the Har Gilo settlement.
    There will be no IDF soldiers on the base during the quarantine period.
    (Har Gilo residents protest the plan to quarantine 200 South Koreans in an IDF base on the settlement )

    The decision sparked an outcry from local residents of Har Gilo, who took to the streets in protest, blocking roads and demanding that Defense Minister Naftali Bennett cancel the "dangerous and unreasonable decision."
    "We happened to discover the IDF intention to create a medical isolation facility in the heart of a civilian settlement," Gush Etzion regional council head Shlomo Neeman said.
    "This is by no means possible. Even if there were a need for immediate treatment of the virus, this decision cannot be made behind the backs of civil officials. Tel Aviv's Kirya base is also a military facility, so why not set up quarantine there?" he said.
    "We are demanding that decision-makers immediately suspend this decision and establish a dialogue with the local authority as is customary. We are no one's backyard and we will not let them operate within our community as if there were no civilian rule here."

    הפגנה מדרשה צבאית בגילה בירושלים הופכת להיות מקום בידוד מפני נגיף הקורונההפגנה מדרשה צבאית בגילה בירושלים הופכת להיות מקום בידוד מפני נגיף הקורונה
    Residents of Har Gilo protest the plan to quarantine South Koreans in their settlement
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    Meanwhile, Education Minister Rafi Peretz said Sunday that he intends to halt student trips to Poland as part of Holocaust memorials due to the coronavirus scare, Hebrew-language broadcaster Channel 12 reported.
    Tens of thousands of Israeli students participate in these expeditions every year, with most making the trip during spring and summer months.
    According to Channel 12, the decision was mainly triggered by the outbreak of the virus in Italy in the last few days.
    Many South Korean are currently stranded in Israel following the decision to extend the entry ban to South Korea and Japan. The ban is already in place for China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Macau.
    On Saturday evening an Air Korean flight carrying 188 passengers on board was told to take off from Tel Aviv shortly after landing, with only Israeli nationals being allowed to disembark.
    The South Korean Embassy in Tel Aviv has appealed to the Foreign Ministry, urging them to find a solution to help repatriate South Korean nationals who cannot leave Israel as all flights to their country have been halted.
    Seoul says that if Israel has decided to take such a drastic step without further notice, it must provide a solution for the 1,600 tourists stranded as a result of the cancellations.
    The 18 infected South Koreans were part of a group of 76 people on a week-long trip from February 8-15, which was organized by their local Catholic church.
    דרום קוריאנים בנתב"גדרום קוריאנים בנתב"ג
    South Koreans travelers wear masks at Ben-Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Hagai Dekel)
    As a result of the diagnosis Israel has now extended the entry ban to South Korea and Japan. The nationals of the two countries won’t be allowed to enter Israeli territory, while any Israelis returning from the two states must self-quarantine for 14 days.
    Reuters and i24NEWS contributed to this report
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