South Korea to conduct enhanced health screenings for passengers from Italy, Iran as of March 12. Other restrictions remain in place.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 11 Mar 2020 08:21 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 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
South Korea will require passengers arriving from Italy and Iran to undergo enhanced health screenings at all ports of entry, as of March 12, to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The measures remain in place for passengers from Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China. 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. The government continues to ban all foreign travelers who have visited China's Hubei Province within 14 days of arrival from entering the country. South Koreans who traveled to Hubei Province will need to self-quarantine for 14 days. Officials revoked visas and suspended visa-free entry for Japanese nationals March 9. Authorities have also halted visa-free travel for Chinese nationals to Jeju Island.

Authorities are maintaining the alert level for COVID-19 at red - the highest level, amid ongoing activity. The heightened alert level empowers the government to place a town on lockdown, cancel school, and alter public transport services, among other measures. Officials have designated Daegu, Cheongdo County, and Gyeongsan city - areas where the outbreak is most intense - as special care zones, allowing for more direct government intervention to respond to COVID-19 cases. The government could upgrade the designation of these locations, particularly Daegu, in the coming days as the city continues to report new COVID-19 cases. Officials could also designate other areas as special care zones in the event of significant outbreaks.

South Korean officials have not announced any nationwide travel restrictions, as of March 11. Leaders have encouraged work-from-home arrangements and delayed the start of school until March 23; extensions of school closures are likely. Officials have increased security at ports and airports across the country. The government continues to ban cruise ships from docking at ports in the country, including in Jeju. Local leaders in Seoul have banned gatherings at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul Plaza, and Cheonggye Plaza. Daegu leaders have limited public meetings and encouraged residents to stay at home. However, authorities may introduce altered schedules or increase health monitoring at transportation hubs in the coming days.

Several major industrial plants have 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. Officials have also suspended leave for military personnel, sleeping off base, and visitor meetings at installations nationwide. Moreover, US Forces Korea has barred staff from nonessential travel to Daegu and halted personnel slated to arrive or depart South Korea. Major joint exercises between South Korean and US forces remain suspended.

As of March 11, more than 100 countries are enforcing travel bans or requiring quarantines for passengers from South Korea. Several South Korean airlines, including Korean Air (KE) and Asiana Airlines (OZ), have suspended routes and reduced flights amid decreased demand. Several governments have issued travel advisories for South Korea due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. As of March 11, the US has maintained its warning at Level Three (Reconsider Travel), the second-highest alert level in a four-tiered ranking system. More governments could impose or alter restrictions on travelers from South Korea in the coming days and possibly weeks. Such actions will almost certainly further reduce demand for travel to and from South Korea and 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, Japan, Italy, or Iran. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with 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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