(ATTN: ADDS info in paras 12-14)
SEOUL, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) -- Non-Korean travelers coming from or through China's Hubei province will be denied entry into South Korea starting on Tuesday, as the country is widening efforts to combat the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus.
The entry ban applies to all non-Korean travelers who over the past 14 days have stayed or traveled to the Chinese province, the home to Wuhan where the new coronavirus originated, according to a government announcement made Sunday.
It is part of South Korea's first border control measures taken to avert the further advance of the epidemic into the country.
In an add-on announcement Monday, the South Korean government said it will use a three-phased screening system to filter out foreign travelers from Hubei, first at the ticketing stage and then to at the entry and post-entry stages.
Foreigners who plan to travel to South Korea will be required to confirm whether they have been to Hubei over the past 14 days at the time of ticketing.
They will be then required to fill out and present a health check form to the quarantine office upon arrival in South Korea.
Through a further verification process following entry, any foreigners who are found to have presented false information on their health or travel history will be deported, according to the government announcement.
The justice ministry said later in the day that the operation of automatic immigration check systems for foreigners will be halted beginning Tuesday.
All foreigners arriving in the country must undergo a screening interview for the time being, the ministry said.
Also starting on Tuesday, Chinese travelers who try to enter South Korea with a passport issued by Hubei province will be selectively allowed into the country, while Korean visas approved by the South Korean Consulate General in Wuhan will be temporarily rendered ineffective, the government said.
Another major border control measure will also take effect Tuesday, putting the visa-free program for Chinese traveling to South Korea's Jeju Island on indefinite hold, according to the government.
In a related step, Incheon International Airport, the main gateway to South Korea located just west of Seoul, said it will assign three arrival gates exclusive to passengers flying in from China: two gates at Terminal 1 and another at Terminal 2.
Once they land, these travelers will be led to the designated quarantine inspection area, and they'll be asked to provide their phone numbers. And then using some 30 telephones installed at each of the three gates, airport officials will dial those numbers to see if the travelers can be reached.
At Terminal 1, passengers getting off the plane from China will leave through Gates A and F, situated at opposite ends. At Terminal 2, Gate A will be reserved for travelers flying in from China.
"The entry ban is the strongest (preventive) measure South Korea has ever taken against an epidemic," Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said, adding that the government may consider further border control measures.
So far, South Korea has reported 15 confirmed coronavirus cases since the first case was verified on Jan. 20.
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