Honeymoon from hell: Coronavirus travel bans trap South Koreans abroad

Honeymoon from hell: Coronavirus travel bans trap South Koreans abroad

South Korean tourists wait inside a partitioned section of the departures terminal before returning
South Korean tourists wait inside a partitioned section of the departures terminal before returning home, at Ben Gurion International airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

SEOUL: The honeymoons of 34 South Korean newly-weds on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius turned into a holiday from hell after they were rounded up and held in isolation by authorities due to fears over the coronavirus, according to Seoul officials.

About 400 South Korean tourists were flown home from Israel on Tuesday (Feb 25) on special chartered flights after more than two dozen Catholics on a trip to that country tested positive for the virus, prompting Israel to impose an entry ban.

The actions took place after a sudden rise in the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea.

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One of the honeymooners on Mauritius, Park Min-kyu, wrote on social media: "They took our passports and put us on standby, and then said we should be isolated for 14 days without any explanation of the situation.

After about eight hours, the couples were brought to a building labeled "SHELTER" with no air conditioning, wireless connections or power sources, he said.

He posted several photos that showed tall wire fences surrounding the building and a dormitory-like bedroom and restroom.

South Korean tourists wear masks as they wait inside a partitioned section of the departures termin
South Korean tourists wear masks as they wait inside a partitioned section of the departures terminal before returning home, at Ben Gurion International airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel on Feb 24, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad)

"It's like we're on a little safari, with rats, lizards and huge snails all over."

South Korean diplomats were helping, he said, but he was worried about the lack of infrastructure and emotional distress.

Seoul's foreign ministry said none of the visitors to Mauritius has shown symptoms of having contracted coronavirus.

Mauritius has requested understanding for its decision to impose a "preventive" entry ban, citing the island nation's dependence on tourism, the ministry said in a statement.

"Four of the 34, including pregnant mothers, have departed the country to come home, and we're closely working with Mauritius to secure an early return for the rest of them," it said.

The ministry also lodged a complaint after South Koreans aboard a Korean Air flight were refused entry at Tel Aviv airport in Israel on Saturday without any prior notice.

Israel's Channel 13 broadcaster shared a video of a bus driving around southern Israel with dozens of South Korean tourists who it said were not able to find a hotel to stay.

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Even once a hotel was found, some of the tourists complained they were forced to stay inside even though none of them had any symptoms.

"I was trying to go out for exercise for about an hour but they told me to go back inside, saying they had called police," said tourist Yoo Hyun-sook, according to footage aired by South Korean broadcaster SBS.

"All of them, even those who work at the hotel, would run away when they saw us."

At least seven countries have banned arrivals from South Korea since last week and a dozen others stepped up travel advisories or restrictions as the number of virus infections spiked in South Korea.

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Source: Reuters/ga

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