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Coronavirus reaches Palestine

Medical personnel wearing protectice suits interact with two patients (R on bed and standing) tested positive to the coronavirus in an isolation room at Cho Ray hospital in Ho Chi Minh City on January 23, 2020 [STR/Vietnam News Agency/AFP via Getty Images]
Medical personnel wearing protectice suits to interact with patients that tested positive to the coronavirus in an isolation room on 23 January 2020 [STR/Vietnam News Agency/AFP/Getty Images]

Nine South Korean nationals who travelled through Palestine in February were later confirmed to have contracted coronavirus, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced on Saturday.

The delegation of 77 people, which visited Palestine from 8 to 15 February, travelled to Jerusalem, Nablus, Jericho, Hebron and Bethlehem.

It is unknown whether the group, who were on a trip organised by the Catholic Church to visit tourist and religious sites in Palestine, were infected before or after visiting the country.

The Palestinian Ministry of the Interior later closed all facilities and restaurants which had been visited by the delegation.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister, and Minister of the Interior, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said: "We hope that the owners of the unknown facilities [visited by the Korean delegation] have a sense of responsibility. We call on them to inform the authorities concerned and abide by the instructions."

The Ministry of Health called on those who had knowingly had contact with or been within a two-metre distance of the delegation for more than 15 minutes to take precautions.

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Including self-imposing quarantine, informing the nearest health authorities to conduct coronavirus tests, and adhering to the WHO recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health has reported that no confirmed cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Palestine to date.

The ministry ordered all hospitals to be in a "state of emergency" as a precaution, and has set up a quarantine centre, near Jericho, for arrivals from China and other countries with an outbreak of coronavirus.

Health officials announced on Sunday that they are coordinating with Israeli authorities to help combat the disease. They said that Palestine was also cooperating with Jordan and Egypt.

Also, on Saturday, South Korea reported an eight-fold jump in infections, most of them linked to a church and a hospital in and around the country's fourth-largest city.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that just two per cent of coronavirus cases result in death, which 80 per cent manifest as mild, flu-like symptoms. However, thought the COVID-19 virus has a lower death rate than previous epidemics of SARS and MERS, it has spread much further.

READ: Lebanon asks WHO for additional assistance to confront coronavirus

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