JERUSALEM – After Israel reported that 18 people from a recent South Korean tour group were infected with COVID-19, a coronavirus, a spokesman for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said officials were concerned how the diagnosis would affect Lenten and Easter pilgrimages.
Israel has banned all flights from South Korea and Japan and said it would arrange a special flight for the approximately 1,000 South Koreans currently in Israel who are waiting to return home.
The director general of the Israeli Health Ministry also told Israel Radio they were monitoring the situation in Italy, which has reported the largest number of cases of the virus in Europe. All Israelis returning from South Korea have also been asked to self-quarantine themselves for 14-days, along with Israelis returning from Thailand, China, Japan, Singapore and Macao.
“Israel’s decision of whom to allow and whom not to allow in is a big challenge to many pilgrims, but of course we do understand the reasons,” said Wadie Abunassar, spokesman for the Latin patriarchate. “We are concerned this will affect pilgrims who are intending to visit us now or in the near future and for sure for the upcoming Easter season.”
The church is advising people to follow instructions from the health ministry and to be cautious, but not to spread rumors, he said.
“It is a big challenge, and we pray we will overcome it very soon with the minimal possible casualties,” said Abunassar.
By: Judith Sudilovsky