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18 S. Koreans infected with coronavirus after pilgrimage to Israel

All Headlines 13:54 February 23, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- Eighteen South Koreans who recently made a group pilgrimage to Israel have been confirmed to be infected with the new coronavirus, the health authorities said Sunday.

According to the authorities, 18 out of the 39 Catholic pilgrims tested positive for the COVID-19 virus the previous day.

Most of the pilgrims are from North Gyeongsang Province, the southeastern region of the country that has reported the most new cases. They went to Israel on Feb. 8 and returned home on Feb. 16, while their tour guide is living in the capital city of Seoul.

The health authorities said they are closely examining the transmission route of the patients and strengthening the monitoring of all the members to prevent further infections.

Moreover, 37 people from Jeju Island made a separate pilgrimage to Israel from Feb. 11-21, according to the authorities. One of them is being checked for the virus after complaining of symptoms of the coronavirus.

Consequently, the Catholic Times, the Daegu-based religious newspaper that arranged the pilgrimage tour, said it has shut down its offices in Seoul and Daegu and put all its employees under quarantine.

Also, the Catholic diocese of Andong that covers more than half of North Gyeongsang Province has decided to shut down 40 churches under its jurisdiction and suspend all masses, meetings and events for three weeks.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has banned South Koreans from entering the country out of fear over the spread of the highly contagious virus.

So far, South Korea has reported a total of 556 coronavirus infections, with four deaths from the novel virus.

A Catholic church located in Daegu, around 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, is closed on Feb. 23, 2020, due to the spread of the new coronavirus in the city. (Yonhap)

brk@yna.co.kr
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