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(3rd LD) Japan to tighten entry restriction on arrivals from South Korea over virus concerns

All News 23:38 March 05, 2020

(ATTN: REWRITES headline, lead; UPDATES paras 1-7 with more details)

SEOUL/TOKYO, March 5 (Yonhap) -- Japan decided Thursday to tighten entry restrictions on arrivals from South Korea and China, including a two-week quarantine and suspension of a visa-waiver program, in a bid to guard against the spread of the new coronavirus.

After a government meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the announcement that people flying in from the two coronavirus-hit neighboring countries will be required to stay at designated facilities for two weeks, Kyodo news agency reported.

They should also refrain from using public transportation during that period.

The new measure will be in effect from Monday through the end of this month.

The quarantine measure, however, does not involve a penalty even if the passenger refuses to be isolated, diplomatic sources familiar with the matter said.

Japan also informed the Korean Embassy in Tokyo that it would suspend a visa waiver program under which South Korean tourists are allowed to stay for up to 90 days, according to the sources.

Abe also said visas issued to Koreans and Chinese travelers will be cancelled and that all incoming flights from the two countries will only be allowed to land in Narita Airport, the main gateway to Tokyo, and Kansai Airport in Osaka.

Tokyo had already imposed an entry ban on people arriving from Daegu city and North Gyeongsang Province, in South Korea's southeast, where the bulk of COVID-19 cases have been reported.

Abe said the entry ban will apply to other virus-hit regions in South Korea. Diplomatic sources said the restriction will be expanded to include at least seven cities and counties near the epicenter of the outbreak, including Andong, Gyeongsan and Yeongcheon.

Following the announcement, Kim Jung-han, director-general for Asia and Pacific affairs at Seoul's foreign ministry, met with Hirohisa Soma, a senior official from the Japanese embassy in South Korea, to "hear the Japanse side's explanation" of the tightened restriction, the ministry said.

South Korea has so far reported 6,088 confirmed cases of the novel virus and 42 deaths.

According to Seoul government's data, 5.58 million people from South Korea visited Japan last year.

Japan has nearly 1,050 patients infected with the virus, including some 700 from the virus-hit cruise ship that had been quarantined in Yokohama, according to its health authorities. It has reported 12 fatalities linked to the virus.

This photo captures a notice by Japan Airlines regarding its flight reductions from South Korea at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul on March 5, 2020. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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