South Korea says it will continue to restrict the entry of short-term travellers from China through the end of February over concerns that the spread of Covid-19 in the mainland may worsen following the Lunar New Year holiday.
South Korea in early January stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulates in China. It also required all passengers from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau to submit proof of negative tests taken within 48 hours before their arrival, and put them through tests again upon arrival.
The steps – which originally were imposed for the month of January – prompted Beijing to respond by suspending South Korean short-term visa applications, raising concerns about disrupted business activities in a country that heavily depends on exports to the mainland.
Following a meeting on South Korea’s Covid-19 response on Friday, health authorities decided to extend the coronavirus measures on short-term travellers from China for another month.
While there had been some indications Covid-19 outbreaks in major Chinese cities were slowing, South Korean officials remain concerned about a viral resurgence following the massive gatherings and cross-country travel during the Lunar New Year’s holidays that ended this week.
South Korean officials during the meeting left open the possibility of easing the restrictions earlier if it becomes clearer that the mainland’s Covid-19 situation is improving, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said in a statement.
According to South Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency, around 10 percent of the 6,900 short-term travellers from China who arrived in the country from January 2 to 26 tested positive after being tested at the airport.
While allowing the extension of existing visas, South Korea has stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulates in China, except for essential government, diplomatic and business activities and humanitarian reasons. (AP)