Quarantine waivers not for tourists inoculated abroad

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Quarantine waivers not for tourists inoculated abroad

The departure hall at the Incheon International Airport is crowded with passengers on flights to China on Thursday afternoon. [YONHAP]

The departure hall at the Incheon International Airport is crowded with passengers on flights to China on Thursday afternoon. [YONHAP]

 
Tourists to Korea who were vaccinated abroad must still endure the 14-day quarantine, the government clarified on Thursday, although group tours from “travel bubble” countries do not.
 
"[The new measure] is part of an exemption from quarantine for humanitarian purposes, so it does not apply for tourism purposes,” Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official said during a briefing on Thursday.
 
On Sunday, the government announced that quarantines would be waived from July for fully vaccinated people inoculated abroad who come to Korea on important business, academic, public interest or humanitarian purposes.
 
Under humanitarian purposes, health authorities specified people attending the funerals of relatives, or visiting their immediate families, which was restricted to spouses, lineal ascendants and descendants of themselves or their spouses. It also included foreign adoptees visiting their Korean biological parents.
 
The only vaccines accepted were those receiving World Health Organization (WHO) approval for emergency use: Pfizer, Janssen, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covishield (AstraZeneca vaccine by Serum Institute of India), Sinopharm and Sinovac. Two weeks must have passed since the inoculation.
 
One big exception was for people coming from countries where virus variants are prevalent. Those visitors are still required to quarantine, and the list will be updated every month.
 
As of June, the list includes 13 countries where the Beta (South African) and Gamma (Brazilian) variants are prevalent: South Africa, Brazil, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Republic of Suriname, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Equatorial Guinea, Chile and Paraguay.
 
Although individual tourists aren’t allowed to skip quarantines, fully-vaccinated tourists traveling in groups from countries where Korea has signed “travel bubble” agreements with, will be exempted as early as next month.
 
So far, talks are underway with Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the U.S. Pacific territories of Guam and Saipan, places with “mutual confidence recognizing each other's stable coronavirus conditions”, according to the authorities.
 
The list is expected to change depending on countries’ virus situations.  
 
Korea is considering setting up a travel bubble with Spain also, but more discussions are needed between the two nations, Culture Minister Hwang Hee said Wednesday.
 
Only individuals on group tours who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed, as they are easier to monitor through travel agencies.
 
People wishing to enter Korea must submit an application form for exemption from quarantine, a negative Covid-19 PCR test result issued within 72 hours of departure, a vaccination certificate, and a written statement to Korean missions overseas at least a week before departure. Additional documents may be required for different purposes, such as a family relationship certificate.
 
Arrivals exempted from quarantine will, however, still have to take two Covid-19 tests after arrival: on the day of arrival and on the sixth to seventh day later. They will also have to install the “Self-Diagnosis App” for Covid-19 on their phones and record their health status.
 
BY SEO JI-EUN   [seo.jieun1@joongang.co.kr]
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