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Asia Minute: More COVID-19 Testing for South Korea

AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

South Korea appears to be a relative success story when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. On Friday, the number of the cases in the country passed 10,000. But even though South Korea has “flattened the curve” of the spread of the virus, authorities are still increasing their prevention measures.

Forget screening. Anyone who gets off an international flight landing in Seoul and who wants to stay in the city will need to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

Right away — and even if they are not showing any symptoms.

That’s a change in policy that just went into effect at the end of last week.

The Mayor of Seoul says passengers showing any symptoms can be tested at the airport — others can go to local community health centers or a testing center set up at the Seoul Sports Complex. Airport buses will take new arrivals to their tests. 

These rules are stricter than the national guidelines — which allow South Koreans and most foreigners without symptoms to go straight to quarantine. Seoul’s mayor says he took the extra step because such a large number of international travelers to South Korea arrive in the capital city.

Health officials say that out of Seoul’s roughly 500 cases of COVID-19, about a third contracted it outside the country.

Last Wednesday, the central government started mandatory quarantines for all arriving passengers to South Korea — and officials quickly demonstrated they are serious about the rules. At least eight foreign nationals from six countries have been deported after refusing to self-isolate for two weeks.

Local media reported that the passengers were told about the quarantine rules before they boarded their flights.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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