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S. Korea may need to expand entry ban over omicron: official

All News 17:01 December 03, 2021

SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is expected to put more countries under an entry ban imposed over concerns about the omicron variant if the present pace of transmission continues, a Cheong Wa Dae official said Friday.

Currently, short-term foreign arrivals from nine countries -- South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Nigeria -- are banned, while direct flights to and from Ethiopia will also be halted starting Saturday.

"If we look at the current pace of spread, I expect that (the number of countries) will have to increase," Park Soo-hyun, senior presidential secretary for communication, said during an interview with Yonhap News TV. "We are listening to expert opinions and trying to find a balance."

This file photo shows Park Soo-hyun, senior presidential secretary for communication. (Yonhap)

Park explained that the government has to take various factors into account, including the economy and public safety.

"We are living in a time of free trade, and if we block others from entering, we will be blocked from entering, too," he noted. "How could we then survive as a trade-oriented nation?"

South Korea has confirmed six cases of the omicron variant, including in a couple who traveled from Nigeria.

Earlier Friday, the government and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) held a COVID-19 response meeting to discuss the new threat posed by omicron.

DP Chairman Song Young-gil urged the government to address the recent shortage of hospital beds amid a spike in daily COVID-19 cases to over 5,000, including more than 700 critically ill patients.

He called for proper and timely financial compensation for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and wider administration of booster shots.

"We just had cases of the omicron variant in people coming from Nigeria, and I believe the entry ban should be expanded," Song said. "I also think it is unavoidable that we reduce exemptions from self-isolation to a minimum."

hague@yna.co.kr
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