|Tourists take a selfie in a pink muhly grass garden on Jeju Island, Tuesday. / Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
Officials on Jeju Island are bracing for a possible surge of COVID-19 infections on the resort island as many tourists are expected to visit there during the five-day Chuseok long weekend that starts Sept. 30.
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters said Wednesday that reservation rates for hotels on the southern island during the holiday had reached 56 percent as of Monday.
Jeju officials expect more than 300,000 people to travel to the island during the holiday period, despite the government's plea to refrain from going out and conducting outdoor activities amid a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
This is raising concerns among residents, with some even posting a petition on the website of Cheong Wa Dae, calling on the government to take measures to prevent people from visiting the island.
One petitioner wrote, "A number of Jeju residents have canceled their plans to visit other parts of the nation due to the pandemic. The government should take measures to ban people from visiting Jeju."
Amid growing concerns, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province has drawn up strict anti-virus guidelines that will take effect Saturday.
The guidelines call for tourists to wear face masks during their visit, and if they experience symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as a fever they should stop traveling and consult a local doctor.
Officials said they will file complaints against those who violate the guidelines in accordance with the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act.
The office will also file for compensation to cover the costs of examination and treatment if a visitor confirmed to have COVID-19 is found to have violated the guidelines.
In addition, visitors with a body temperature over 37.5 degrees Celsius will have to go through mandatory coronavirus testing and be isolated until test results come out, according to officials.
Those who refuse this can face up to one year in prison or up to a 10 million won ($8,600) fine.
"There is no way we can prevent visitors from coming as all of us have freedom of movement. But Jeju has been put on emergency alert," Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong said. "We ask those who have symptoms to refrain from visiting the island, and those who experience symptoms during their trip to immediately give a report to the local authorities."
Won cited that Jeju Special Self-Governing Province had filed a compensation suit in March against a student and her mother visiting from Seoul who drew the ire of the public after having traveled to Jeju Island despite showing symptoms of COVID-19.
"We will continue to take legal action against those who do not properly comply with our guidelines," Won said.
The central government has joined forces with provincial administrations governing popular domestic tourist destinations, such as Jeju Island.
Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip said, "We will assign 3,204 officials in charge of instructing people to follow anti-virus measures at tourist attractions until Oct. 4."