Korean flight attendant who was in Israel, LA tests positive for coronavirus
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Korean flight attendant who was in Israel, LA tests positive for coronavirus

Diagnosis adds weight to possibility that group of South Korean tourists may already have been infected when they were in Israel

A Korean airplane that arrived from South Korea, after landing at Ben Gurion International Airport on February 22, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
A Korean airplane that arrived from South Korea, after landing at Ben Gurion International Airport on February 22, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

A Korean Air flight attendant who recently visited Israel and the United States has tested positive for COVID-19, South Korean media reported Tuesday.

The cabin crew member flew to Ben Gurion Airport aboard the flight that brought some 200 South Korean pilgrims to Israel, many of whom were later confirmed to have the virus.

The flight attendant’s diagnosis adds weight to the possibility the group may already have been infected when they were in Israel, although the incidents could be separate.

After leaving Israel on February 16, the flight attendant then flew to Los Angeles and back to Seoul’s Incheon Airport on February 21, before being diagnosed with the coronavirus and entering quarantine, according to the wow.co.kr news website.

South Korean tourists being forced out of the country wear masks as they wait for a flight in an isolation area at Ben Gurion International airport on February 24, 2020. (Flash90)

Korean Air announced that a member of its flight crew had tested positive for the virus, but did not give any further details on the employee’s travel itinerary, Reuters reported.

South Korea announced Tuesday it had 977 cases of coronavirus and 11 deaths — the largest official national total outside China.

The Foreign Ministry on Sunday urged Israelis not to visit Japan and South Korea over fears of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, also recommending that Israelis currently in South Korea consider leaving the country.

South Korean visitors left Israel en masse on Sunday amid coronavirus concerns after the number of cases mounted in their home country and a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that all South Koreans in Israel be quickly flown out of the country.

Korean tourists await a flight home from Ben-Gurion International airport amid fears they carry the coronavirus, Feb. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

On Saturday the Health Ministry said the group of South Korean pilgrims recently in Israel had tested positive for the coronavirus, sending hundreds of Israelis who were in proximity to the travelers into home quarantine. Some 200 Israeli students and teachers were instructed to enter isolation due to being in several tourist sites at the same time as the group.

The South Korean tourists were diagnosed upon returning home. According to Seoul, 29 of the tourists tested positive for the virus.

The Israel Airport Authority (IAA) said in a statement Monday morning that 622 Korean nationals had left the country since Sunday night, and that between 800 and 900 still remained in the country.

Many have arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, where they were forced to spend the night after they were rejected by hotels and by residents of a settlement near Jerusalem where they were supposed to be quarantined on an adjacent army base.

Israel has banned all foreign nationals who have been to South Korea and Japan in the past 14 days from entering the country. Israel is also denying entry to visitors from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and Singapore, and is apparently the only country to have taken such drastic steps so far to contain the virus.

Israeli citizens returning from South Korea and Japan or who were there in the last 14 days must quarantine themselves at home for two weeks upon their return, the ministry said.

Israel on Monday issued a travel advisory for Italy, due to a surge of coronavirus cases there.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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