|An immigration officer wearing anti-contamination clothing screens a traveler for symptoms of COVID-19 at a checkpoint in Incheon International Airport, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul|
Korea toughens entry ban to curb COVID-19 cases
By Jun Ji-hye
The government will temporarily suspend visa-free entry and visa waiver programs with countries that have taken similar actions against Korea, in its ongoing efforts to prevent COVID-19 cases of foreign origin, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Wednesday.
The administration will also minimize the issuance of new visas.
"The government will expand entry restrictions for foreigners whose visit to Korea is not essential and urgent," Chung said during a pan-government COVID-19 meeting.
The measures come as foreign-origin cases of the coronavirus have continued to emerge amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, while the nation's daily number of new infections has shown "positive" signs of declining, according to the health authorities.
The government has been placing all new arrivals in mandatory self-quarantine for two weeks at their homes or state-designated facilities since April 1.
As the number of people ordered into self-quarantine has reached more than 40,000 nationwide, municipal administrations have faced difficulties in monitoring them effectively, with violations of the order continuing to be reported.
"Nearly half of daily new infections have been foreign-origin cases recently," Chung said. "In addition, there are signs of the health crises in Europe and the United States spreading to Japan and other Asian countries."
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) confirmed 53 additional COVID-19 infections and eight more deaths, Tuesday, bringing the country's total to 10,384, and the death toll to 200.
Among the new cases, 14 were detected at airports.
While the nation's daily number of new infections has hovered around 50 for the third straight day, Chung once again stressed the need to maintain a high-level of social distancing to curb the spread of the virus as infection clusters in hospitals and churches as well as cases of foreign-origin continue.
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters issued an administrative order, also on Wednesday, advising private educational institutes nationwide, including foreign language schools, to halt their operation temporarily amid growing concerns over further clusters.
If it is necessary for the private educational institutes to continue operation, they must comply with government guidelines on preventing the spread of the contagious disease.
The guidelines call on all lecturers and students to wear face marks, and to keep a distance of one to two meters from one another.
Owners of the institutes are required to appoint quarantine managers, and disinfect and ventilate the facilities at least twice a day.
The government will order a suspension of business if the institutes are found to be not following the guidelines.
The government has already imposed similar administrative orders on religious, sports and entertainment facilities nationwide.