Korea Tightens Travel Curbs over Omicron Panic

  • By Bae Jun-yong, Kim Sung-mo

    December 03, 2021 09:12

     The government on Thursday tightened curbs on arrivals from African countries that it considers hotspots of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. As of midnight Friday, Nigeria joins eight southern African countries on a blacklist after several people who had visited the country tested positive for the variant here. Foreigners who spent time in the high-risk African countries as recently as two weeks ago are also barred.

    The son from a missionary couple, who had returned from Nigeria in late November, tested positive for the variant on Thursday, bringing total confirmed cases to six so far.

    Starting Saturday, the three weekly flights to Ethiopia will be halted until Dec. 17. Instead, the government will operate irregular flights to shuttle Korean nationals back home.

    Travelers from abroad wait to board a bus to a quarantine facility at Incheon International Airport on Thursday. /Yonhap

    All arrivals from abroad will be forced into isolation for 10 days starting Friday whether they are vaccinated or not, and people who test positive here will also be forced to isolate for two weeks if they have come into contact with an Omicron carrier. Koreans and resident foreigners can self-isolate at home, but others will be interned in a government facility.

    All arrivals from abroad will be tested four times until the end of the self-isolation period. If they test positive on arrival they will have to undergo further tests to determine if they are carrying the Omicron variant. Confirmed cases will be sent to a quarantine facility or hospital.

    Health authorities also decided to tighten lockdown rules at home limiting the size of permissible gatherings to six in the Seoul metropolitan area and eight elsewhere while making vaccine passes mandatory for restaurants, coffee shops and other facilities.

    On Friday morning, the daily tally of new coronavirus infections stood at 4,944 with 736 severe cases.

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