|The Korean government is toughening measures for foreign nationals who wish to enter Korea to prevent the spread of COVID-19. / Yonhap|
By Kim Se-jeong
Foreign nationals who plan to enter Korea from high COVID-19 risk countries will be required from Monday to submit a negative test result issued less than 48 hours before their scheduled departure, the government said Friday.
Nationals from Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Pakistan are expected to be affected by the new rule. The government made a list of high-risk countries based on infections reported at Korea's ports of entry since June.
However, the government refused to disclose the full list, citing diplomatic courtesy.
"We see the number of cases skyrocketing in countries from which seasonal workers in Korea come," Son Young-rae, a senior government official responsible for the government's response to the pandemic, said during a press conference. "The purpose of the change is to control the number of people who are arriving from these countries."
Yoon Tae-ho, another senior official, said: "We have already communicated with the Korean embassies located in those countries about the change. Those with inquiries can contact the Korean embassies directly."
Under the new measure, the Korean embassies in these countries will have designated clinics where prospective passengers should take the test.
The government responded to the pandemic involving foreign nationals by rolling out several measures. Korean embassies have stopped issuing short-term visas for many countries and cancelled regular flights.
For long-stay foreigners who return to Korea after visiting their home countries, the government is asking them to present a health document from a doctor issued less than 48 hours before departure at the airport.
The measure is making it more difficult for Korean farmers to get enough help. The Korean government recruits foreign workers through a non-professional employment and employment permit system. Most workers come from Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, Korea reported 45 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, pushing the total to 13,338. The death toll is 288.
From 6 p.m. Friday, the government enforced mandatory hygiene and social distancing rules for churches, as new cases linked to places of worship continue to be reported. But many doubt the rule's efficacy, as Korea has more than 83,000 Protestant churches across the country.