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(2nd LD) S. Korea mulling sending chartered flight to bring nationals home from Iran

All News 21:03 March 08, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES figures in 2nd para)

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is reviewing a plan to send a chartered flight to Iran to bring its citizens home from the coronavirus-hit Islamic country this week, government officials said Sunday.

The number of Iran's COVID-19 cases had reportedly risen to 6,566, with 194 deaths, as of 12 p.m. on March 8 (local time), raising concerns about the safety of Koreans in the country suffering shortages of medicine and medical equipment.

It marks the third most coronavirus infections in the world, following China and South Korea.

"The South Korean Embassy in Iran is carrying out a survey on people there over whether they are willing to get aboard a chartered flight," an official from the foreign ministry here said.

He said the foreign ministry is in talks with the Tehran government to help its citizens come home within this week.

About 100 out of 220 South Korean residents in Iran are expected to take the flight, the official said.

A chartered Korean Air B747-400 with South Koreans from Wuhan lands at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul on Feb. 1, 2020. The passenger jet brought back some 330 people from the Chinese city that has become the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak. (Yonhap)

But due to the international sanctions against the Middle East country, Seoul is seeking ways to arrange a flight from a third country, instead of sending a flag carrier directly.

The entrants from Iran will undergo coronavirus tests, while those with symptoms of virus infection will be quarantined for about 14 days.

South Korea has airlifted its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, and from the Diamond Princess, a quarantined cruise ship moored off the coast of Japan, last month.

South Korea evacuated nearly 900 South Koreans in Wuhan in three batches on Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and Feb 12, and they were put under 14-day quarantines at facilities.

With only a few of the evacuees testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the rest of them were released from the designated facilities by Feb. 27.

The country also sent a presidential plane on Feb. 19 to bring six nationals and a Japanese spouse out of 14 South Koreans aboard the Japanese cruise ship. They were transported to a medical facility in the country for a 14-day quarantine.

As of Sunday, South Korea had reported a total of 7,313 confirmed coronavirus cases and 50 deaths since the deadly virus was first diagnosed on Jan. 20 here.


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