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Some 400 S. Korean tourists leave Israel on chartered flights


CAIRO -- Some 400 South Korean tourists boarded two chartered flights in Israel on Monday after the Israeli government imposed an entry ban on South Koreans over concerns about the new coronavirus.

The first plane carrying some 220 South Koreans departed Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport at around 4 p.m. The second plane left the airport at around 10 p.m., with 196 South Koreans aboard, according to the South Korean Embassy in Israel.

The flights were arranged at the Israeli government's expense following a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in South Korea.

As of Monday, there were a total of 833 confirmed cases, with eight deaths.

On Saturday, Israel banned entry of some 130 South Koreans who arrived in Tel Aviv on a Korean Air flight. The next day it announced an entry ban on all foreigners who have traveled to South Korea or Japan.

Fears of the coronavirus mounted in the Middle Eastern nation after a group of South Korean tourists who recently traveled to Israel were confirmed to have contracted the virus.

"We plan to assist in the return of our travelers by arranging additional flights," Seoul's foreign ministry said.

Israeli media reported earlier that as of Monday morning there were 800-900 South Korean tourists in the country.

The two flights are expected to have brought the number down to below 500. (Yonhap)