Rapid antigen tests accepted for entry to Korea from Monday
Testing requirements for people entering Korea have been simplified, making it easier and less expensive for those visiting or returning to the country.
According to health authorities on Sunday, anyone wishing to enter Korea from overseas can submit a rapid antigen test (RAT) instead of a PCR test, starting Monday.
Previously, those entering Korea from overseas had to submit a negative result from a test taken less than 48 hours before entry. Starting Monday, anyone who has had a RAT negative test taken within 24 hours can enter Korea.
As it is meant to replace the PCR test, the RAT test must be conducted by a medical professional. Results of self-test kits are not accepted.
This measure reflects the current trend domestically and overseas of replacing PCR testing with RAT testing.
"There are measures to replace PCR testing with RAT testing overseas, making it difficult to obtain PCR testing or incurring significant costs in doing so," said Son Young-rae, senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters.
As the infrastructure to get RAT testing is much more prevalent due to the nature of the testing method, the government expects that RAT testing will be relatively simple and inexpensive in most countries.
At Los Angeles International Airport, a RAT test can be done in an hour for $69. A PCR test costs $129 for "same-day results."
From June 1, the number of tests that must be performed after entry to Korea will be reduced from two to one.
Currently, PCR tests within one day of entry and RAT tests between six to seven days of entry are required, but this will change to a PCR test within three days of entry and the RAT test only being recommended.
In addition, from June 1, all those 12 and under will be exempt from inoculation, up from the previous 6 and under.
Meanwhile, the seven-day quarantine for those infected with Covid-19 is still in effect and will remain so through June 20, health authorities announced on Friday.
In a Friday briefing, officials at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters cited the discovery of new virus variants and the continuing Omicron wave as key reasons why it was too early to end quarantine.
The headquarters said it would "reassess the situation" in four weeks to determine whether the quarantine policy will remain.
As the pandemic continues to wane, the number of new confirmed cases fell back under 20,000 on Sunday.
This is the first time in six days that the number of new confirmed cases fell below 20,000, and for Sundays, the first time since January 30.
According to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, the number of new confirmed cases was 19,298 on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 17,957,697.
The number of new confirmed cases Sunday is 4,164 fewer than Saturday.
Of the new confirmed cases on Sunday, 24 were from overseas, and the remaining 19,274 were from domestic cases.
By region, the Gyeonggi area had the most infections, with 4,266 new cases, followed by Seoul, with 2,903 cases. North Gyeongsang Province had 1,510 cases, while South Gyeongsang had 1,272. Daegu had 1,194, Busan 869, Daejeon with 695 and Ulsan with 651.
The number of severe cases was 229, a decrease of six from the previous day.
The number of deaths due to Covid-19 was 54, 28 more than on Saturday.
This is the first time in eight days that the number of deaths was above 50.
BY LIM JEONG-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]