January 03, 2023 11:35
Some 60 visitors from China tested positive for COVID on arrival at Incheon International Airport on Monday, the day new entry restrictions for them went into effect.
The day's first flight was Shandong Airlines carrying 76 passengers from Jinan that landed at 10:50 a.m., and in the course of the day 1,092 passengers arrived from China. Of these, 309 on short-term visas were given PCR tests and 61 tested positive.
The rest were either transit passengers or Korean nationals or on long-term visas, which means they could do the test at home.
PCR tests were also administered at ports. The government halted short-term visas for travelers from China until the end of this month, with the exception of essential business, which is expected to reduce arrivals significantly. The passengers who arrived on Monday had gotten their visas earlier.
But Kim Woo-joo at Korea University Guro Hospital said, "There is a weak link in the government's entry regulations because we can't be sure that visitors who test positive will voluntarily self-isolate as required."
Korean nationals and foreigners with long-term visas who arrive from China must have the test at a public health center near their homes within a day of their arrival and self-isolate for seven days if they test positive, but the government will not enforce the measures.
Kim also pointed out that Korea left Hong Kong and Macau out of the entry restrictions, and Hong Kong has seen three times more coronavirus infections than Korea compared to the size of the population, while people fly frequently between the mainland and Macau.
If a new variant coronavirus enters Korea from China, the pandemic could be extended here. Eom Joong-sik at Gachon University's Gil Medical Center said, "The BF.7 variant, which has been detected in large numbers in China, is different from the BA.5 or BN.1 variants that are spreading in Korea. Considering the number of critically ill patients in Korea, around 150,000 people are estimated to be getting infected every day and we could end up facing a much bigger load."
Chung Ki-seok, a government adviser on infectious diseases, urged Koreans to get vaccinated. He said becoming severely ill after refusing improved vaccines injection is like "getting hit by a car while jaywalking."
"We will have to discuss how much longer the government can keep paying for their medical bills," he added, but suggested incentives for people who do take the new enhanced vaccines.
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