SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to gradually lift restrictions on arrivals of migrant workers prompted by the pandemic starting later this month as the country has begun to take steps to return to normalcy, the labor minister said Monday.
"In light of the shift to 'living with COVID-19' scheme, we're going to push for a measure to gradually ease entry restrictions on foreign workers," labor minister An Kyung-duk said during a visit to a workplace that employs migrant workers.
All foreign workers will be allowed to enter the country if they are confirmed to have been vaccinated back home and have negative results in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and the cap on daily and weekly arrivals of migrant workers will also be removed, the minister said.
"We will make sure the entrance of foreign workers will be expanded at the end of this month at the latest," he said.
On Monday, the first stage of the three-stage scheme to gradually phase out coronavirus restrictions was activated as more than 70 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated.
So far, South Korea has only allowed a limited number of migrant workers from certain countries to enter the country amid the pandemic due to virus concerns.
Only those who tested negative on PCR tests were allowed to enter the country and required to undergo mandatory two-week self-quarantine upon arrival.
In the light of such policies, the tally of migrant workers who entered South Korea plunged from an annual average of 50,000 before the pandemic to below 7,000 last year, according to the ministry.
Many small and medium-sized businesses here, as well as farms, have complained of manpower shortages due to the sharp drop in the number of migrant workers.
About 50,000 foreigners with work permits were waiting to enter the country as of last month due to the restrictions, according to the ministry.
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