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(2nd LD) 93 countries, territories restricting entry from S. Korea over coronavirus concerns

All News 21:58 March 04, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES figures in headline, lead; UPDATES throughout; ADDS more info in paras 7, 9)
By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, March 4 (Yonhap) -- A total of 93 countries and territories were imposing entry restrictions or stricter quarantine procedures on people from South Korea over coronavirus concerns, Seoul's foreign ministry said Wednesday.

As of 7 p.m., 35 countries and territories imposed an outright entry ban for travelers who have visited Korea in the past two weeks, according to the ministry website.

Qatar began to enforce an entry ban starting Monday on foreigners with a record of visits to South Korea, China, Iran, Italy or Egypt over the past month. Foreigners who have residential permits in the Middle Eastern country will face a 14-day quarantine at a designated facility.

Four other countries -- the Maldives, Japan, Fiji and the Philippines -- were barring the entry of those with a record of visits to South Korea's Daegu city and nearby North Gyeongsang Province, the main clusters of COVID-19 infections.

Including 15 provinces in China, 22 countries and regions were imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from Korea. The Chinese island province of Hainan was added to the list.

Costa Rica now requires all passengers from Korea, China, Italy and Iran to undergo separate health screenings inside the airport. Denmark recommends a two-week home quarantine for those who came from Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, as well as a few other virus-affected locations.

Burundi also joined list, carrying out temperature checks on all passengers upon arrival and put those with symptoms in a 14-day quarantine at a designated hospital.

(2nd LD) 93 countries, territories restricting entry from S. Korea over coronavirus concerns - 1

Venezuela has been moved to the list of those requiring foreigners from Korea, China, Japan and Singapore to be quarantined at a facility if they are suspected of infection. The South American nation had been carrying out temperature checks upon arrival and monitoring thereafter.

Latvia, however, was removed from the ministry's list.

That puts the number of countries with less strict quarantine procedures or quarantine recommendations at 32, including Nepal, which has announced a halt to issuing arrival visas for foreigners from virus-affected countries starting next Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said that the rise in entry restrictions does not necessarily mean South Korea's image has been tainted because those measures were taken by countries lacking capabilities to cope with the virus.

"I spoke to a number of counterparts in foreign countries and they told me that (the measures) were taken because they had lax quarantine systems and these really have nothing to do with the issue of friendship with Korea," she told a parliamentary session in response to a lawmaker's question.

"We are continuing consultations so that businesspeople who must travel abroad and citizens who need to travel to see their relatives can make a trip to the country."

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks during a parliamentary session in Seoul on March 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

Seoul has been ramping up diplomatic efforts to persuade foreign governments to refrain from implementing excessive entry restrictions. Kang Kyung-wha has spoken by phone with her counterparts from India, Iraq, Indonesia and El Salvador on Tuesday and called for easing of the measures.

First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young met with U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Harry Harris later Wednesday to reiterate Seoul's efforts to stem the virus.

The United States has not yet implemented entry restrictions. But U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday (U.S. time) that Washington is looking closely at South Korea over the coronavirus outbreak and will decide whether to impose travel restrictions on its Asian ally "at the right time."

All South Korean passengers on flights bound for the U.S. currently undergo temperature checks before boarding.

A foreign ministry official said Wednesday the government is seeking to send three rapid response teams to Vietnam this week to help some 270 Korean nationals who are in quarantine. The Southeast Asian nation has imposed an entry ban on people from Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province and a 14-day quarantine for those from other parts of Korea.

South Korea has so far reported more than 5,600 COVID-19 infections, with over 30 deaths.

elly@yna.co.kr
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