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(4th LD) Australia to impose entry ban on people from Korea on Thursday

All News 17:39 March 05, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES in lead, 9th para)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- Australia plans to impose a temporary entry ban on foreigners from South Korea on Thursday, the country's embassy in Seoul said, as the number of COVID-19 infections here reached 6,088.

Seoul's foreign ministry voiced "strong regrets" over the measures that it claimed came without sufficient prior consultations, officials said, stressing its all-out efforts to contain the novel coronavirus.

Shortly before Australia's official announcement on the measures, Australian Ambassador to South Korea James Choi visited the ministry to explain them.

The Australian Embassy said that the weeklong entry ban will go into effect at 7 p.m. (Korea time) and that the country will review whether to continue the ban in the next seven days. It explained the measure "affords best protection to slow the rate of transmission in Australia."

"The new measures include an entry ban on non-Australian citizens travelling from the ROK for seven days from 9 p.m. tonight -- Australian Eastern Time which will be reviewed in seven days," the embassy said in a statement. ROK stands for South Korea's official name, Republic of Korea.

The move came as Seoul has been stepping up diplomacy to prevent what it calls excessively restrictive measures against Korea. Currently, 96 countries and territories are imposing entry bans or stricter quarantine procedures for people from South Korea.

Australia also decided to raise its "travel advice" for South Korea to Level 3 in the four-tier system, urging its citizens to "reconsider your need to travel."

In addition, it decided to raise the advice level for Daegu -- the epicenter of the outbreaks -- to Level 4, which means "do not travel" there.

Meanwhile, Australia only imposed "advanced" screening measures for people travelling from Italy, despite the European country having reported more than 100 deaths. South Korea's death toll stands at 40.

Seoul officials said that Australia had said through a diplomatic channel that it imposed the entry ban because the number of people arriving from South Korea is five times the number of those from Italy.

Last year, some 249,000 South Koreans visited Australia, while about 187,000 Australians traveled here.

This photo, taken on June 27, 2019, shows Australian Ambassador to South Korea James Choi speaking at a seminar in Seoul. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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