Nine South Korean nationals who visited Israel and the West Bank in February have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, Israel's Health Ministry said on Saturday.
All 77 members of the group have already returned to South Korea, and at this stage it is unknown whether they were infected with the virus before or after arriving in Israel.
– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 63
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 63Haaretz
Meanwhile, the ministry's Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov said Israel has expanded quarantine regulations, requiring all those returning from South Korea and Japan to remain in isolation for two weeks.
So far, quarantine was mandated for Israelis returning from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and China, where the latest outbreak began.
"People must understand that we have a limited window of opportunity to control the disease, otherwise it will spread to the entire country," said a senior health ministry official. She added that the public must obey quarantine orders out of solidarity and concern for the sick and elderly.
The Korean tourists were part of a group on a trip organized by the Catholic Church and had visited many tourist and religious sites throughout the country, including over a dozen churches. The Health Ministry is currently trying to locate all the poeple who socialized with the tourists and might have been infected.
According to Bar Siman Tov, officials "assess the potential for a [coronavirus] case in Israel to be significantly higher as a result of the group's visit."