(ATTN: CLARIFIES 3rd para; UPDATES infection tally in 2nd para)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea sent three "rapid response" teams to Vietnam on Thursday to help more than 270 citizens quarantined over concerns about the new coronavirus.
Upon arrival, the teams will provide consular support to 276 citizens who have been isolated at military installations, health care facilities or hotels, as the number of South Korea's COVID-19 infections stands at 5,766 with 35 deaths.
Vietnam currently quarantines people arriving from South Korea, a change from its initial policy that banned the entry people who had traveled in the past two weeks to the southeastern city of Daegu or nearby North Gyeongsang Province, where the bulk of the nation's infections have occurred.
"We will make our best efforts to help the Korean nationals in quarantine if they want to return to Korea or face any difficulties," Kyun Jong-ho, the chief of the rapid response teams, told reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.
"The most important thing at this point is to provide items that those in public quarantine facilities need. We will help them be quickly discharged from quarantine and ensure that those facing a quarantine program will not experience any difficulties," he added.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha was at the airport to encourage the team members.
"I believe these teams in close cooperation with our diplomatic missions in the country can help address difficulties facing our nationals there," she said.
Later at the airport, Kang also voiced hopes that should the coronavirus outbreaks start to calm, countries would start to lift their entry restrictions on people from Korea. Currently, 96 countries and territories are imposing entry restrictions or tougher quarantine procedures for Koreans.
"We have heard that the foreign countries have inevitably taken such measures in light of their own quarantine systems, not because their willingness for friendly relations or cooperation with South Korea has been reduced," the minister said.
"That said, I believe that many partner countries would lift the measures if we move past this situation," she added.
Each rapid response team consists of four members, mostly from the foreign ministry and the National Police Agency. The teams will be dispatched to three areas of responsibility for the South Korean Embassy in Hanoi and Consulate Generals in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang.
The teams plan to stay in Vietnam for one week for now, but they could later decide to extend their stay, the ministry said.
In China, there are about 830 South Koreans in quarantine. But the ministry does not plan to send any support teams as its staff at the China-based missions can handle the consular and other affairs related to them.
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