Korea to lift quarantine requirement for unvaccinated travelers
Korea will lift a seven-day quarantine mandate for all travelers entering from abroad, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not, from June 8.
The government explained that the decision to relax quarantine rules was made to reduce economic damage and inconvenience as the virus situation has stabilized.
"We decided to further ease the overseas border restrictions from Wednesday, considering the increasing demand for flights along with the daily recovery and the stabilized virus wave here and overseas,” said Son Young-rae, senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, in a press briefing last Friday.
The number of daily Covid-19 infections in Korea fell below 10,000 on Sunday, at 9,835, with 48 cases imported from overseas, according to Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) data.
"We decided to lift the quarantine requirement in line with the decisions made internationally, such as in Germany, Britain and Denmark,” Son added.
Currently, people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 are exempt from quarantine after entering Korea, but those who are not vaccinated are required to self-isolate for seven days.
While the quarantine exemption takes effect from Wednesday, it will also be applied retroactively to unvaccinated travelers who entered Korea before Wednesday. People who test positive upon arrival will still be put into isolation.
However, given the recent detection of more transmissible virus variants in the country — such as BA.2.12.1 — the government decided to maintain the current Covid-19 testing requirements. As such, travelers must perform a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or a rapid antigen test within 48 hours before departure to Korea, and receive an additional PCR test within three days of entry — a rule that was updated on June 1.
Korean nationals and foreign residents are able to receive Covid tests for free at public health centers in their neighborhood after entering the country. Foreigners visiting for a short term such as for tourism, however, will be guided to get tested at the airport testing center — which will charge a fee.
With the new measure, proof of vaccination or a quarantine exemption certificate are no longer required to be registered in the country’s new pre-entry quarantine information system, known as Q-Code.
Although a slight increase of virus infections may occur following the eased entry rules, health officials explained that a considerable portion of the population have now gained immunity, and maintaining quarantine is "causing excessive social costs and adding to difficulties to the national economy."
"The complete lift of the quarantine is believed to have a much greater effect on the national economy than the impact it has on the virus situation," Son said. "We will continue to maintain this measure... until virus cases caused by new variants surge or a new virus wave is seen globally."
Health authorities plan to respond separately to the monkeypox virus, which has been posing a threat to easing border restrictions.
Authorities will declare the designation of monkeypox as a Class 2 infectious disease on Wednesday — the same as chickenpox, measles and Covid-19. Somebody infected with monkeypox will immediately be put into quarantine.
Amid a continued decline in Covid-19 cases, Korea is expanding face-to-face treatment of patients and reducing monitoring of high-risk groups.
Starting Monday, daily health checks of the "intensive management group" recovering at home, such as patients aged 60 or older or immunocompromised patients, will be cut from twice to once a day. Phone counseling and prescriptions for patients under the age of 12 will be changed to once a day.
The fast-track procedure — referring to a system that enables Covid patients at the highest risk of severe illness and death to receive tests, treatment and prescriptions within one day — will be implemented within this month.
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