Korea mulls over PCR test-free arrivals
The government has embarked on reviewing the remaining social distancing measures, most notably rules on outdoor mask use and PCR testing within 24 hours on arrival, as the number of COVID-19 infections has now stabilized, according to the health authorities on Tuesday.
Lim Sook-young, a senior official at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), said that the recent resurgence of COVID-19 infections has passed its peak ― which reached 180,803 infections per day in the third week of August ― and the health authorities are preparing to ease travel regulations accordingly.
Lim explained that testing requirements for international arrivals vary by country and the government will “study how other countries are doing and gather expert opinions to introduce new quarantine measures.”
The outdoor mask rule and PCR testing within one day of arrival are the two measures that are subject to change. The government has eased the outdoor mask use rule and wearing one is no longer a requirement, except in public spaces in which 50 or more people are gathered.
Earlier in April, Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC) had made a proposal to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to replace mandatory PCR testing for arrivals with rapid antigen tests (RAT) or mandate testing only for those with symptoms or arrivals from high-risk regions.
According to the KDCA, Korea is one of among 10 OECD countries that maintains health restrictions for inbound travelers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Canada and the U.S., for example, restrict unvaccinated people from entering the country, while Japan, Spain, Chile, Luxembourg, Lithuania, and Colombia require unvaccinated travelers to take a COVID-19 test before departure and present negative test results. Meanwhile, New Zealand mandates all inbound arrivals to get tested upon arrival.
Korea eased the self-isolation requirement for vaccinated travelers and April and for unvaccinated arrivals in June. On Sept. 3, the country lifted the pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement.
Inbound travelers still need to take the PCR test within one day after entering the country. However, some have criticized the requirement as the government has no effective way of enforcing it.
The country saw 47,917 new daily infections on Tuesday, which is 16.3 percent lower than the week before at 57,309. Korea’s total number of COVID-19 infections stands at 24,461,737.
Source: The Korea Times