Why Israel says no to visitors from Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand?

Interview of a top official of the Israel Ministry of Health

Why Israel says no to visitors from Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand?

The Republic of Korea Embassy protested in Tel Aviv about a Korean Airlines flight that was not allowed to disembark non-Israel passengers from their flight on Saturday. Turning down tourists and business travelers on a commercial flight on a foreign flag carrier is drastic. The reason was South Korea’s alarming increase in Coronavirus cases. Israel officials are worried.

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As of Sunday, there was one known COVID-19 patient in Israel. This person was exposed aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which docked in Japan, and tested positive only after being flown home on a special quarantined flight.

But this weekend, South Korean pilgrims tested positive after returning home from the Holy Land. It is believed that they were already infected when they came and that they interacted with hundreds and perhaps thousands of people during their stay.

A decision was quickly taken by Israel’s Health Ministry to bar non-Israelis arriving from South Korea – but not quickly enough to prevent Saturday night’s landing of a direct flight from Seoul. Twelve Israeli citizens were allowed to disembark before being placed in quarantine, but the remaining passengers were forced to once again take to the skies.

All told, Israel is now barring entry to non-Israelis arriving from seven points of departure. Aside from South Korea, they are China, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, and Singapore.

Critics believe this entry policy is quite harsh, even in light of all the unknowns about coronavirus. To hear the other side, The Media Line spoke with Dr. Asher Salmon, director of international relations for the Israeli Health Ministry.

Israel thinks the world is far away from a global epidemic.

Click and listen to the audio interview by eTN Partner The Media Line.