A Korean Air flight attendant has emerged as the first instance of a cabin crew member testing positive for the coronavirus since it first broke out of the Wuhan city epicentre in January.

Citing information from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the carrier states that the flight attendant was on the same flight as a group of South Koreans who were diagnosed upon return from a pilgrimage to Israel.

KCDC is conducting contact tracing and working with other authorities for a thorough epidemiological survey.

Korean Air tells Cirium: “In the case of any confirmed case onboard, all employees who were likely to have contacted the patient, including the flight crew who worked on the flight, are placed in quarantine after being excluded from duties.”

The airline has also notified all frontline staff to monitor their temperature before going on duty and to wear masks and gloves.

“All employees should comply with the basic rules for preventing infection, such as wearing masks and washing hands, until the situation has settled.”

South Korea is now the worst-hit outside of mainland China, after the number of coronavirus cases surged last week. It has raised its highest alert for infectious diseases, while an increasing number of countries are imposing travel restrictions to and from the country.

Just like most carriers in the region, Korean Air has cut capacity to cope with falling demand, with changes in place until at least 28 March.

In Southeast Asia, nine of 23 routes are affected, with operations more than halved to 224 weekly flights.

Services to China have been reduced to 57 weekly flights across 10 routes, compared to 204 weekly flights across 30 routes.

Korean has also suspended flights to Tel Aviv, while some US routes have been downgauged to cope with falling demand.

The airline continues to offer refunds for flights to mainland China, Hong Kong and Taipei, as well as passengers who may face coronavirus-related entry restrictions at their destinations.

This story has been updated with additional information from Korean Air about KCDC updates.