South Korea to suspend visa-free entry for Japanese nationals from March 9. Further travel restrictions, controls remain in place.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 06 Mar 2020 22:37 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 Korean officials announced the suspension of visa-free entry by Japanese nationals, effective from March 9. Previously issued visas for Japanese nationals are to be canceled March 9. Authorities have also said that flights from Japan to South Korea may be restricted to certain designated airports in the coming days. The restrictions were announced as a retaliatory move following Japan's plans to impose mandatory 14-day quarantines on passengers arriving from South Korea beginning March 9. The restrictions are ostensibly aimed at containing the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Dozens of national governments have imposed travel restrictions on foreign nationals traveling from South Korea as confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the country. As of March 7, Turkey, Israel, Mongolia, Iraq, the Maldives, Singapore, and other countries have banned entry by foreign nationals with recent travel history to South Korea. Authorities in Malaysia are banning entry by foreign nationals who have been in Daegu and Cheongdo within the previous 14 days. Authorities in Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, 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 remain suspended as of March 7, with the exception of Aeroflot (SU) and Korean Air (KE) flights operating direct routes between Moscow and Seoul. Several additional governments have issued travel advisories for South Korea due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. As of March 7, the US has maintained its warning at 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 place a town on lockdown, cancel school, and alter public transport services, among other measures. South Korean officials have not announced any nationwide travel restrictions. Authorities have encouraged work-from-home arrangements and delayed the start of school until March 9; extensions of school closures are likely. 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. However, new cases have been reported in most of the country including Seoul, Busan, Gwangju, and Jeju.

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. Tens of 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.

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 destination for Chinese tourists. Increased immigration and customs delays are likely for international travelers, especially those arriving from China and Japan.

Officials have increased security at ports and airports across the country. As of March 7, 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 is 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 or Japan. 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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