August 30, 2022
SEOUL – South Korea’s advisory committee on infectious diseases, under the office of the prime minister, on Monday advised the government to lift COVID-19 testing regulations for inbound travelers.
The committee’s announcement is fanning speculations that the government will lift the predeparture COVID-19 testing rule. The government’s decision is expected to be made this week.
At present, all travelers to South Korea must submit the results of a polymerase chain reaction test taken two days prior to traveling to the country or a rapid test taken one day before. They also should receive a PCR test within one day after arrival in the country.
“Ultimately, it is right to scrap COVID-19 tests that people have to take before traveling to the country,” said Jung Ki-suck, head of the advisory committee and a professor at Hallym University Medical School. Jung added the COVID-19 tests that travelers are required to take before entering South Korea need to be substituted with tests that they take after arrival.
Jung questioned the reliability of COVID-19 tests that travelers take overseas. Jung also noted inconvenience that Korean nationals go through when they try to reenter the country.
Jung said the predeparture testing rule is causing Korean nationals to spend substantial amounts of money overseas. “There are around 20,000 Korean nationals returning home on a daily basis. If they spend 100,000 won ($74) for COVID-19 tests on average, it’s 2 billion won in total per day. The money that they spend for tests in foreign countries adds up to 60 billion won in a month,” Jung said.
South Korea is currently one of few countries to requires predeparture COVID-19 tests for travelers. According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries, South Korea and Japan are the only countries that still ask for predeparture tests for fully vaccinated travelers.
But, as Japan has already decided to lift the measure from Sept. 7, South Korea could soon be the only OECD country maintaining the requirement.
The KDCA too previously hinted at a possible easing of the predeparture COVID-19 testing rule, with the backdrop of mounting calls from the tourism industry, as well as people who experience difficulties in obtaining COVID-19 tests overseas.
However, some experts have cautioned that the government’s lifting of the pre-entry testing requirement could be too early, as the number of COVID-19 infections is still high.
“It is complacent to ease the border control measures since the country’s daily confirmed COVID-19 cases still remain high,” said professor Kim Woo-joo of the infectious disease department at Korea University Guro Hospital. “(The government) should recall the spike in COVID-19 infections that followed the government’s relaxation of border control measures in June.”
Meanwhile, the number of daily COVID-19 cases from overseas on Sunday reached 360. Including the cases from overseas, the country reported 43,142 new COVID-19 infections.
The country reported 49 more deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 26,618. The fatality rate stood at 0.12 percent.
The number of critically ill patients on Sunday reached 597, up from the previous day’s 581. It marked the highest level since late April.