Two more countries face restrictions entering KoreaHealth officials Wednesday said two more countries will be added to a list of foreign nations whose travelers need to submit negative Covid-19 test results in order to enter Korea starting from July 20.
Authorities did not reveal the names of the two countries in a press briefing Wednesday, citing the possibility of sparking “diplomatic conflict,” but officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity pointed to the Philippines and Uzbekistan.
That brings the list of nations up to six, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which were on the original list that gradually went into effect since late June.
Starting Monday, travelers from the Philippines and Uzbekistan will have to submit a negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test when they pick up their tickets at the airport, and again to Korean customs officials upon arrival. The requirement does not apply to Korean nationals.
The test result must have been issued by a Covid-19 test center designated by a Korean diplomatic mission in the foreign country within 48 hours before departure.
After passing customs in Korea, travelers from both countries will still be required to self-quarantine in their homes or a government-run isolation facility for two weeks, the incubation period of the virus, and be tested for the coronavirus once again within three days of their arrival.
The rules of 14 days of quarantine and a virus test within three days upon arrival apply to everyone coming from a foreign country, except for a very few visa categories, such as diplomats and foreign government officials.
Health officials Wednesday said all regular flights departing from the two countries will also have to run 60 percent or below their full capacity starting next week, while non-scheduled flights will be temporarily suspended.
“Our requirement of a negative PCR test result is not based on reciprocity. This is a one-way demand,” said Sohn Young-rae, an official at the Korean central government’s Covid-19 command center.
“We can’t reveal [the names of the two countries] because it can cause diplomatic conflict.”
Since June 1, most registered foreign residents in Korea who wish to travel outside the country have had to get re-entry permits from the Justice Ministry before leaving and submit a medical certificate to Korean customs officials issued within 48 hours prior to the date of departure for Korea — written in English or Korean — detailing whether they have any coronavirus symptoms. A negative Covid-19 test result also suffices.
Exceptions to these rules have been made for diplomats, government officials and overseas Koreans with F-4 visas. Exemptions to the health certificate requirement were made for short-term travel abroad under three weeks for the purposes of business, reporting and academic research.
The strengthened guidelines were announced as Korea reported more imported cases of the coronavirus than local infections Wednesday for the fourth day in a row, stoking concerns here as domestically contracted cases dip.
Across the nation, 39 people were newly diagnosed with the coronavirus Tuesday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) revealed Wednesday.
Of that figure, 11 were locally infected: six in Seoul, three in Gyeonggi and one each in Gwangju and Daejeon.
The rest were imported cases: 14 from Iraq; three each from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; two each from the Philippines, Russia and Albania; and one each from the United States and Pakistan.
Of Korea’s total case load of 13,551, imported cases account for 1,919, or about 14.2 percent.
As of Tuesday at midnight, 289 people had died, the same as the previous day, while 12,348 people had been declared fully recovered, more than 66 from the day before.
In explaining the rise of imported cases lately, Korean health officials have blamed a let-up in preventive measures abroad — such as foreign countries lifting lockdowns and travel restrictions and loosening sanitation guidelines — coupled with Korean factories importing foreign laborers.
As for the Tuvalu-flagged cargo ship docked in Busan, where one sailor was found to have contracted the coronavirus Tuesday, health officials said Wednesday that none of the 43 other sailors tested positive.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, HWANG SOO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]