February 23, 2023
SEOUL – South Korea will lift the coronavirus testing requirements for entrants from China beginning in March, the government said Wednesday.
From March 1, mandatory PCR testing for coronavirus upon arrival at the airport for entrants from China will no longer be in place. The measure will also permit China entrants to arrive at airports other than Incheon. This means such measures effective through the end of February will not be extended, and flights between, for example, Jeju Island and places like China and Hong Kong will no longer be suspended.
But those flying from China will still have to submit negative COVID-19 testing results and register themselves on Korea’s quarantine information preentry system, called “Q-Code,” until March 10.
Kim Sung-ho, vice minister for disaster and safety management at the Ministry of Interior and Safety, cited a sharp decline in cases among people visiting from China. In the third week of February, only 0.6 percent of people entering Korea from China tested positive. The figure was 18.4 percent in the first week of January.
COVID-19 infections have been on a gradual decline across Korea. The average daily number of new cases in the third week of February was 11,599, down 14.4 percent from the previous week. The figure has been falling for the past eight weeks.
The number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition has also declined, to 161 in the third week of February, falling below 200 for the first time in seven months.
“We see that an additional measure to ease quarantine measures appears to be viable,” Kim said as he presided over a COVID-19 response meeting.
Lim Sook-young, director of the infectious disease crisis response bureau at the Central Disease Control Headquarters, said in a briefing that China “has entered into a phase when the virus situation is stabilizing.”
This came two weeks after Seoul resumed its issuance of short-term visas for travelers from China beginning on Feb. 11, after restricting the issuance for about a month due to surging infections in China. Beijing moved in sync with Seoul, as it lifted on Saturday visa-related countermeasures that Beijing said were in response to “discriminatory acts” by Seoul.
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo had earlier hinted at increasing the weekly flights between Korea and China from 62 as of last week to 80 by end-February and to 100 in March.
“(Seoul) has determined to carry out further easing of quarantine measures on those flying from China, Hong Kong and Macao, in addition to the resumption of a short-term visa issuance and the increase in volume of international flights,” Lim said.
The remaining quarantine measures on China entrants are likely to be short-lived, health authorities added.
“We will look into the level of virus infection in the next 10 days to determine whether to make it mandatory for China entrants to do Q-Code registration before arrival,” Lim said.