Photo Credit: Avshalom Shoshani/Flash90
Asian tourists at Ben Gurion International Airport, February 17, 2020.

Thirty eighth-graders and their two teachers from a school in Be’er Sheva were instructed on Saturday to enter home isolation, after it turned out that they had stood near a group of South Korean tourists, nine of whom were later diagnosed as coronavirus carriers upon their return to their homeland.

In addition, sixty more eight-graders from Haifa have also been placed in isolation, after it was discovered that they were near the group of South Koreans at Masada.


Update: The number of infected south Koreans from that tour group is now up to 19.

The students and their teachers will remain in isolation until Thursday. At the same time, the Israeli health ministry has decided to impose a number of restrictions on tourists from South Korea.

On Thursday, February 13, a group of students and teachers from the David Tuviyahu Comprehensive School in Be’er Sheva visited the Tel Be’er Sheva National Park, at the same time a Korean tourist group was also visiting.

After the trip, one of the teachers developed some of the coronavirus symptoms, in keeping with health ministry guidelines, he arrived at Soroka Hospital where he underwent tests to detect the virus, the results of which have not yet been received. At the end of the tests, the teacher was sent home to remain in isolation.

Korean Christian pilgrims sing together at Safra Square in Jerusalem, December 25, 2018. / Hadas Parush/Flash90

Professor Eyal Leshem, a virus expert from Tel Hashomer Medical Center Sheba, told News 12: “The report that there was a group of people here, some of whom are most likely infected and possibly carrying the virus, in the second week of February, is very worrisome – because unlike the people from the cruise ship who were exposed and we at Sheba Hospital are keeping them under complete isolation and tight supervision, and are able to immediately detect any infection with accurate tests, these people were exposed to a wide population around the country. Based on our experience, this virus is most likely highly contagious and therefore there is a significant risk that there is currently a contagion in the country.”

“No country in the world has banned tourists from any country except China,” Professor Leshem said. “No country has banned people from South Korea, Japan and Thailand from entering, so Israel is no different from other countries, and the decisions of the health ministry were appropriate. It’s hard to say if it could be stopped or not, we are dealing with the same dilemmas as the rest of the world. We learn that the virus is probably very contagious, we hear about hundreds of cases in Korea, dozens of cases in Japan and Iran, and there is a very significant concern that this virus will establish itself in more countries in the near future as it has done in China.”

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported that 20 of its employees in the Masada, Caesarea and Tel Be’er Sheva National Parks who came in contact with the Korean tourists were ordered to enter home isolation until Wednesday. The Parks Authority has made it clear that at this point all these employees are feeling well and have not developed any abnormal symptoms. The authority maintains constant contact with the health ministry and acts in accordance with its guidelines.

Here is a list of places in Israel where the sick pilgrims from South Korea visited:

  • Feb. 8: Tower of David Hotel in Netanya and the Gallery Hotel
  • Feb. 9: Caesarea, Gabriel Hotel in Nazareth, Gospel Entrance, Holy Family Entrance, Ein Gev Hotel.
  • Feb. 10: Ein Gev Hotel, Tenorin Restaurant, Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, Church of the Multiplication.
  • Feb. 11: The David Hotel at the Dead Sea
  • Feb. 12: Masada, Timna Park, Leonardo Hotel Negev in Be’er Sheva
  • Feb. 13: Be’er Sheva National Park, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem.
  • Feb. 14: Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Bethphage, Chapel of the Ascension, Church of the Pater Noster, Dominus Flevit Church, Gethsemane Church. On Mount Zion: the Cenacle, Tomb of the Virgin Mary, Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu.
  • Feb. 15: Jerusalem Gold Restaurant. Ein Kerem, Jerusalem: – St. John’s Church, Church of the Visitation, St. Anne’s Church, Bethesda, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Church of Anastasis.

In addition, the group also visited areas within the Palestinian Authority.

According to Channel 12, some 1000 South Korean tourists have been instructed to not leave their hotels.

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