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(2nd LD) 31 S. Korean pilgrims to Israel infected with coronavirus: authorities

All Headlines 17:24 February 24, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES figures in headline, lead, paras 2, 4-5, 9)

ANDONG, South Korea, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- A total of 31 South Koreans who recently made a group pilgrimage to Israel have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, health authorities here said Monday.

Of 39 Catholic pilgrims from North Gyeongsang Province who visited Israel between Feb. 8 and 16, 13 were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Monday, while the other 18 were confirmed positive and quarantined last week, according to municipal health authorities.

Of the 30 infected pilgrims, 20 are from Euiseong County, North Gyeongsang Province, according to the authorities, while one patient, a tour guide, is a Seoul resident.

Local health authorities warned that there is a risk of secondary infections as most of them went to public places after they returned from the pilgrimage tour. So far, at least 200 people have been found to have had contact with the infected pilgrims, they said.

This file photo taken Feb. 23, 2020, shows South Korean tourists at Incheon International Airport returning from Israel. (Yonhap)

The authorities said they are also keeping close tabs on a separate group of pilgrims that is scheduled to arrive in South Korea later in the day. This group, including 19 residents from North Gyeongsang Province and six Seoul residents departed for Israel on Feb. 13.

To prevent the spread of the virus, the authorities said it plans to put the pilgrims into quarantine at temporary shelters once they arrive in South Korea.

It has yet to be confirmed how the South Korean pilgrims contracted the coronavirus.

Israel on Saturday barred 130 Koreans from entering the country without any prior notice after they landed in Tel Aviv.

South Korea has so far reported 833 coronavirus cases, along with seven virus-related deaths.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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