South Korea’s Foreign Ministry is urging partner countries to refrain from imposing rigorous entry restrictions against Korean nationals, amid concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak here.
The ministry explained Korea’s efforts to contain the novel coronavirus and request the countries refrain from taking excessive measures in a briefing session on Tuesday afternoon.
Kim Gunn, deputy foreign minister for political affairs, head the session held at the ministry in Seoul, with officials at the foreign diplomatic missions from 103 countries in attendance.
Following the rapid surge in the number of COVID-19 cases here, a growing number of countries are denying entry to Koreans and others who have traveled here.
As of Tuesday, 24 countries and territories have imposed an entry ban or rigorous quarantine processes for Koreans and others who have traveled here in the past two weeks. Seven -- Hong Kong, Jordan, Israel, Bahrain, Kiribati, Nauru and Maritius -- have slapped an entry ban on Korea, while 17 are imposing rigorous restrictions on anyone entering from Korea, such as mandatory medical examinations and self-quarantine orders. They are Macao, Singapore, Thailand, Micronesia, Taiwan, UK, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Oman, Qatar, Tuvalu, Vietnam, Thailand, Uganda, Samoa and the unincorporated US territory of American Samoa.
Israel was one of the first countries to impose an entry ban, when it barred Koreans who arrived in Tel Aviv on Saturday from entering the country before it officially announced the decision. On Monday, the Israeli government at its own expense flew about 400 Korean tourists back to South Korea.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has described Israel’s recent entry ban as an “excessive response,” stressing Seoul’s efforts to prevent further restrictions.
Separately, The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the highest travel warning on Korea, recommending American travelers to avoid unnecessary trips to the country.
Despite the stepped-up containment effort, Korea has seen the number of infections increase more than 20-fold in the span of less than a week. As of Tuesday, the virus tally stood at 977 cases with 10 deaths.
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com