Officials implementing local restrictions in South Korea as COVID-19 cases rise. Enhanced health screenings, travel restrictions ongoing.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 21 Feb 2020 07:32 GMT and is scheduled to expire 09 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventative restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Increased health screenings, immigration delays; possible quarantine

Summary
Local officials in South Korea are implementing further restrictions to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) after a recent increase in COVID-19 cases across the country. Officials in Seoul have banned gatherings at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul Plaza, and Cheonggye Plaza - frequent gathering sites - as of Feb. 21. Authorities have also shuttered locations of the Sinchon Church in the capital after an outbreak occurred at a Sinchon Church branch in Daegu. Officials in Daegu have limited public gatherings and encouraged the public to stay at home. The government has suspended vacation for military personnel, sleeping off base, and visitor meetings at installations nationwide starting Feb. 22. US Forces Korea has also barred staff from nonessential travel to Daegu as of Feb. 21 and forced personnel who attended Sinchon services to self-quarantine. Additional local-level restrictions are possible in the coming days.

Despite the rise in COVID-19 cases, South Korean officials have not altered travel restrictions for foreign nationals. Authorities continue to conduct intensified health screenings for arriving passengers 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. 21, the government continues to ban cruise ships from docking at ports in the country, including in Jeju. Several South Korean airlines, including Korean Air (KE) and Asiana Airlines (OZ), have suspended routes to destinations in mainland China and reduced flights on others through late March amid decreased demand. Further transport restrictions and flight disruptions are possible.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Do not attend rallies in outlawed areas due to possible fines. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings, especially if traveling from Greater 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.

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.

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