• AFP-JIJI, Staff Report

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Israel on Sunday said it would ban foreign nationals who had visited Japan or South Korea 14 days prior to their arrival amid fears of the new coronavirus outbreak, with the measure officially scheduled to go into effect on Monday.

The decision came after Israel on Saturday initially said it would ban all flights from both South Korea and Japan only to reverse course hours later, with local media reporting that it would only ban foreign nationals who had visited China in 14 days prior to their arrival.

The Japanese Embassy in Israel was notified of the new measure Sunday.

On Saturday, the Middle Eastern country refused to allow some 200 non-Israelis to disembark from a plane that arrived from South Korea, as part of measures against the new coronavirus, the health ministry said. It said the plane was made to return to South Korea, after the 12 Israeli passengers on board were taken away in ambulances waiting at Tel Aviv to be quarantined.

Sunday’s decision came two days after Israel confirmed its first case of the COVID-19 virus.

A cut in air links with China has been in force since January, and Israel has also refused entry to people who have recently visited or are resident in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore or Thailand.

Israel confirmed its first case of the virus in one of its nationals who had earlier this week flown home from Japan after being quarantined on the stricken cruise ship Diamond Princess.

Nine South Korean tourists who stayed in Israel earlier this month were diagnosed with COVID-19 on their return home, Israel’s health ministry said Saturday, but it was unclear where they contracted the virus.

The ministry listed the sites they had visited on its website and asked Israelis who may have come into contact with them to self-quarantine and contact a health services care provider before traveling to Japan or consider postponing the trip if it is unnecessary.

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