South Korea confirmed 61 positive cases of Covid-19 among visitors from China on the first day the country’s new travel restrictions came into effect, on Monday (Jan. 2), Yonhap News Agency reported.
Under the new measures, visitors from China have to present a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before their arrival or a negative antigen test taken within 24 hours before their arrival, followed by a PCR test after arrival.
According to The Korea Times, those who tested positive have to be quarantined at a facility arranged by the Korean government for seven days. The facility can hold up to 100 patients.
61 visitors from China tested positive
On Monday morning (Jan. 2), staff at Incheon airport were seen handing out red name tags to all short-term visitors from China to differentiate them from tourists from other countries, Yonhap reported.
Soldiers donning blue protective outfits then escorted Chinese visitors to a PCR testing centre at Incheon Airport’s Terminal 1.
There were no separate routes given to make this trip, so some travellers from Singapore were mistaken for Chinese visitors and given red name tags after standing in the wrong lines.
Those who took the PCR tests had to stay in a waiting room at a nearby transportation centre before their test results came out. The centre can accommodate about 300 people and have benches and simple refreshments.
On the first day that the measures were implemented, 61 Chinese visitors tested positive for Covid despite presenting a negative Covid test before their arrival. 309 people were tested overall.
Frustration towards restrictions
Some people voiced their dissatisfaction with the new measures. A Chinese national waiting for her friend arriving from China expressed her frustration for having to wait at the airport for more than six hours.
A South Korean employee for a South Korean company based in Beijing said his business trip in Seoul was disrupted as he had to quarantine after his PCR test.
“The tougher restrictions may be necessary due to serious Covid-19 situations in China, but it is regrettable that the (South Korean) government has not given prior notice sufficiently in advance,” he said.
South Korea will also implement travel measures for travellers from Hong Kong and Macau from Jan. 7, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. However, they are not required to take a PCR test upon arrival, unlike visitors from China, according to The Korea Times.
China to retaliate against nations who imposed Covid travel curbs
Aside from South Korea, countries like Japan, the United States and Italy announced that arrivals from China have to present a negative Covid test.
The rules came due to mounting concerns about the ongoing surge of Covid cases in the country, as well as the lack of transparency about the situation.
According to Bloomberg, China said it would retaliate against nations who imposed Covid travel restrictions towards Chinese visitors.
“We believe that some countries’ entry restrictions targeting only China lack scientific basis and some excessive measures are unacceptable,” Mao Ning, the spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at a press briefing.
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