Eighteen members of a group of South Korean pilgrims who visited Israel this month have now tested positive for coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19. The Health Ministry’s announcement on Sunday doubles the number of the infected, which previously stood at nine.
The infected were on a week-long trip to Israel, which lasted from February 8 until 15, organized by their Catholic Church. The delegation included 76 people overall. One of the infected is the group’s tour guide who lives in South Korea’s capital of Seoul.
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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Israelis who had been asked to self-quarantine to adhere to the health officials' guidelines.
"We prefer to be overprepared," Netanyahu said during a press conference with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. "Israel has acted more stringently [than other countries], and we will continue to do whatever it takes.
In addition, the Health Ministry issued a directive asking anyone who has returned from Taiwan, Italy or Australia in the past two weeks and has symptoms of a cold to immediately seek medical help in order to eliminate the possibility of coronavirus.
The number of cases of coronavirus in Italy continued to rise on Sunday after the government passed a series of emergency measures to limit the spread of the outbreak in Europe's most affected country.
The governor of Italy's northern Lombardy region Attilio Fontana said certified cases of the illness in his area had risen to 89 from 54 a day earlier, bringing the total number in the country to more than 100.
South Korea, meanwhile, South Korea raised its infectious disease alert to its highest level as confirmed coronavirus cases in the country jumped to 602 and the death toll rose to five.
More than half the new cases are linked to a church in the southeastern city of Daegu after a 61-year-old woman known as "Patient 31" who attended services there tested positive for the virus last week. The woman had no recent record of overseas travel.
Reuters contributed to this report