Incoming travelers need to take PCR tests within a day
Starting Monday, all travelers entering Korea will have to get a PCR test within a day of arrival as part of tighter measures to deal with the BA.5 Omicron subvariant.
According to health authorities, the PCR test for Covid-19 is technically required on the day of arrival, but in cases when this is impossible, a test on the next day will be accepted.
Covid-19 screening for international travelers was eased in June in line with the subsiding virus wave, and PCR tests were allowed within three days of arrival.
The strengthening of the rules comes as imported virus cases continue to rise following an increase in international flights and lifting of quarantines for travelers.
The number of imported cases from abroad has exceeded 100 per day since June 24, and has been hovering around 300 for the past seven days. This is still small compared to domestic transmissions, of which the daily average in the past week stood at 64,283.
On July 20, the country saw 429 virus patients from overseas, the highest number since Korea’s onset of Covid-19 on Jan. 20, 2020. The second-highest is Jan. 14’s 406 cases.
More international travelers are entering Korea after the easing of entry restrictions, including tourists, K-pop fans eager to see concerts that were canceled during the pandemic, and foreign workers allowed employment permits again.
In addition to the PCR test after arrival, travelers are recommended to take a rapid antigen test (RAT) on the sixth or seventh day.
Korean nationals and foreigners living here can get free PCR tests at a public health center in their neighborhood.
Short-term visitors are advised get tested at the testing center in the airport or at a medical clinic near their hotel at their own expense.
Korea has been dealing with a sixth pandemic wave fueled by the BA.5 subvariant.
On Sunday, the country reported 65,433 new Covid-19 cases, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), with cases staying above 60,000 for three days in a row.
Severe cases climbed to 146, doubling from the previous Sunday’s 71 patients and hitting the highest level in 51 days.
Eighteen more people died overnight, bringing the death toll to 24,873.
According to health authorities on Friday, around 97 percent of new Covid-19 cases registered in the first week of July were people who never had Covid.
Among the 18,306,179 accumulated total of virus cases as of July 10, 77,200 people — or 2.88 percent — were suspected to be reinfected patients, the KDCA said. Reinfections refer to positive PCR or RAT test results confirmed at least 45 days after a first infection regardless of having symptoms.
But experts believe reinfections will increase as the immunity of people who contracted the virus during the Omicron wave earlier this year is expected to wane.
The situation in the Britain is similar. According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 55 percent of recent Covid-19 patients in England were first infections.
A report in The Guardian suggested reinfected people may not recognize their infections.
Covid-19 symptoms are generally severe for initial infections but tend to weaken in second, third or fourth infections. Thus initial infections are much more likely to be diagnosed and reported, the report said.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]