Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: South Korea to halt visa-free, visa-waiver travel for 90 countries from April 13 due to COVID-19. Social distancing measures in place.

This alert affects South Korea

This alert began 10 Apr 2020 07:26 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel disruptions, immigration delays, supply chain disruptions

Officials have expanded a planned halt of visa-free and visa-waiver programs with countries that have entry bans for South Korean citizens. The restriction will now impact travelers from 90 countries, including Australia, Canada, and most European nations. Authorities will also cancel existing short-term visas issued before April 5, requiring travelers to reapply for entry documents. The measure will take effect from April 13, despite initial reports it would come into force April 9. The government plans to limit all but essential or urgent travel for foreign nationals to the country.

Authorities are maintaining the alert level for COVID-19 at red, the highest level, empowering the government to implement movement restrictions, cancel school, and alter public transport services, among other measures. South Korean officials have not announced any domestic travel restrictions as of April 8; however, officials have extended measures for social distancing, including limitations on religious gatherings, indoor sporting events, and entertainment venues, through at least April 19. Officials announced plans to enforce social distancing requirements at these venues nationwide April 7. The government has encouraged work-from-home arrangements and arranged online classes for students. Local leaders in Seoul have closed bars and clubs, salons, and other entertainment venues through at least April 19 and banned gatherings at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul Plaza, and Cheonggye Plaza. Daegu leaders have limited public meetings and encouraged residents to stay at home. The central and local governments could extend or intensify social distancing measures further in the coming weeks.

The government continues to ban cruise ships from docking at ports in the country, including in Jeju. Airlines have suspended routes and reduced flights amid decreased demand. Major industrial plants have closed in South Korea after employees tested positive for COVID-19. Many industries have also been impacted by supply chain problems arising from disruptions in China. Widespread and prolonged supply chain disruptions are possible. Officials have also suspended leave for military personnel, sleeping off base, and visitor meetings at installations nationwide. US Forces Korea has declared a state of emergency and continues to implement a ban on nonessential travel to Daegu and a stop for personnel slated to arrive in or depart South Korea. Major joint exercises between South Korean and US forces remain suspended.

Several governments have issued travel advisories for South Korea due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. As of April 10, the US has maintained its warning on South Korea at Level Three (Reconsider Travel), the second-highest alert level in a four-tiered ranking system. Nearly 150 countries are enforcing travel bans or requiring quarantines for passengers from South Korea. Governments could impose or alter restrictions on travelers from South Korea in the coming days and possibly weeks.

Travel Restrictions

The government continues to ban all foreign travelers who have visited China's Hubei Province within 14 days of arrival from entering the country. Officials require inbound passengers, regardless of nationality, to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. Authorities will quarantine foreigners who do not have a place of residence in the country at government facilities at their own expense. Officials intend to intensify enforcement of self-quarantine amid reports of several violations of the order; police or health officials could verify compliance with self-quarantine orders in the coming days. Authorities in Seoul require all inbound international passengers who intend to stay in the city to undergo COVID-19 tests upon arrival. Travelers with COVID-19 symptoms receive tests immediately, while officials have arranged buses to transport other passengers from Incheon International Airport (ICN) to designated testing facilities in Seoul. Mandatory screenings, including testing protocols, are likely for international arrivals nationwide, especially for symptomatic passengers.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers. Plan for possible ground shipping and travel delays; seek alternative routes and shipping methods for time-sensitive cargo.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Ministry of Health and Welfare: