Multiple countries impose travel restrictions on South Korea as of Feb. 28. Business disruptions reported. Additional controls likely.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 28 Feb 2020 19:18 GMT and is scheduled to expire 11 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventative restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: International travel restrictions, increased health screenings, immigration delays, supply chain disruptions; possible quarantine

Summary
Multiple governments have imposed travel restrictions on foreign nationals traveling through South Korea as confirmed cases of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continue to rise in the country. As of Feb. 28, Israel, Mongolia, Iraq, the Maldives, and Hong Kong have banned entry by foreign nationals with recent travel history to South Korea. Authorities in Vietnam, Taiwan, and parts of mainland China are implementing mandatory 14-day quarantines on all arriving passengers from South Korea. Direct flights from Russia to South Korea will be suspended from March 1, with the exception of Aeroflot (SU) and Korean Air (KE) flights operating direct routes between Moscow and Seoul. Several governments have issued travel advisories for South Korea due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. As of Feb. 28, the US has raised its warning to Level Three (Reconsider Travel), the second-highest alert level in a four-tiered ranking system. Additional governments are highly likely to impose restrictions on travelers from South Korea in the coming days, and possibly weeks.

South Korean authorities increased the alert level for COVID-19 to red - the highest level - late Feb. 23, following a spike in confirmed cases. The heightened alert level empowers the government to town on lock-down, cancel school, and alter public transport services, among other measures. As of Feb. 28, the government has not announced any nationwide travel restrictions, though authorities have delayed the start of school until March 9. Officials have designated Daegu and Cheongdo County, where the outbreak is most intense, as special care zones, allowing for more direct government intervention to respond to COVID-19 cases. However, new cases have been reported in most of the country including Seoul, Busan, Gwangju, and Jeju.

As of Feb. 28, authorities have not canceled public transport; however, officials may introduce altered schedules or increased health monitoring at transportation hubs in the coming days. Officials in Seoul have banned gatherings at the popular Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul Plaza, and Cheonggye Plaza. Authorities also shuttered Shincheonji Church of Jesus branches in the capital after an outbreak occurred at a branch of the church in Daegu. Thousands of members of the church are self-quarantined and under health surveillance. Daegu leaders have limited public gatherings and encouraged residents to stay at home. Officials have also suspended leave for military personnel, sleeping off base, and visitor meetings at installations nationwide. Moreover, US Forces Korea have barred staff from nonessential travel to Daegu and mandated that personnel who attended Shincheonji Church of Jesus services to self-quarantine. Major joint exercises between South Korean and US forces have been suspended as a precaution.

Several major industrial plants have been closed in South Korea after employees tested positive for COVID-19. Many industries have also been impacted by supply chain disruptions arising from restrictions imposed in China. Widespread and prolonged supply chain disruptions are possible.

Despite the rise in COVID-19 cases, as of Feb. 28 South Korea has not altered travel restrictions for foreign nationals. Authorities continue to conduct enhanced health screenings for passengers arriving from Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China at all points of entry. Seoul has banned all foreign travelers who have visited China's Hubei Province in the past 14 days. South Koreans who traveled to Hubei Province will need to self-quarantine for 14 days. Authorities have established three quarantine areas at Incheon International Airport (ICN), where health officials are conducting enhanced screenings; passengers must receive clearance before they can enter the country. Authorities have also halted visa-free travel to Jeju Island, a popular Chinese tourist destination. The measures are unlikely to impact most travelers to South Korea significantly, but immigration and customs delays are likely for passengers from Greater China.

Officials have increased security at ports and airports across the country. As of Feb. 28, the government continues to ban cruise ships from docking at ports in the country, including in Jeju. Several South Korean airlines, including Korean Air and Asiana Airlines (OZ), have suspended routes to destinations in mainland China and reduced flights amid decreased demand. Decreased demand for flights to and from South Korea are likely to result in further fight disruptions in the coming weeks.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Avoid large gatherings as a precaution. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings, especially if traveling from China. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays and possibly result in quarantine. Confirm any travel restrictions before embarking on travel to or from South Korea.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.go.kr

 

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