Hundreds of South Korean tourists will head home from Israel aboard chartered aircraft on Monday, Seoul officials said, after they were stranded following the Middle East country's abrupt entry ban on Koreans for concerns about the new coronavirus.
The South Korean Embassy in Israel informed the tourists that the Israeli government, in consultation with Seoul, prepared chartered flights for their return home, and asked them to gather at Ben Gurion Airport at 11 a.m (local time).
About 500 South Koreans are expected to board two chartered flights, according to an informed source.
The tourists have been stranded in the country after the Israeli authorities barred nearly 180 foreigners, including 130 Koreans, aboard a Korean Air flight from entering the country without any prior notice on Saturday. The travel restriction has led to the suspension of flights from Korea.
Earlier in the day, Seoul officials said that Korea and Israel were in talks over the plan to airlift the South Koreans with Israel considering covering the cost of the chartered aircraft.
"The Israeli government is weighing the option of arranging chartered flights under the condition that it will shoulder all the costs to support the early return of South Korean tourists who have had difficulties returning home following their trips to Israel," a foreign ministry official in Seoul said.
An Israeli media outlet, Ynet, has reported that South Korean nationals will be airlifted out of Israel from Monday at the expense of the Israeli government.
Israeli and South Korean airliners will participate in the airlift that will transport the South Koreans stranded in Israel on direct flights to Seoul, it added.
The entry ban comes as the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Korea has risen to 833. eight patients have died. (Yonhap)