Incheon International Airport appears empty last weekend. (Yonhap)
From June, foreign residents of South Korea have to provide a medical certificate showing they do not have symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, to reenter the country.
The ministry said the new disease control policy applies to people leaving the country after June, including long-term residency permit holders.
The certificate has to be issued within the last 48 hours from the time of departure in order to be deemed valid, the ministry said, which effectively revokes reentry permits. Self-isolating for 14 days is still required upon arrival.
To minimize cross-border transmissions while at the same time allowing international travels, the government has made two weeks of home isolation mandatory for all arriving passengers from April 1.
Non-citizens without a place to isolate are provided lodgings at government-assigned hotels and other accommodations attended by medical personnel.
Anyone refusing to isolate is denied entry at the border.
Officials say the two-week isolation requirement is intended to curb nonessential travels in a pandemic. People whose travel purposes that are considered essential, such as business travelers, are exempt from the restrictions.
Korea is also barring symptomatic individuals from leaving the country.
Health authorities have said the virus containment has to come in two parts: stemming infections spreading locally as well as blocking those coming in from abroad.
A Justice Ministry official said the newly implemented measure is expected to prevent “healthy individuals from leaving the country and returning infected.”
According to the latest data, at least 78 long-term foreign residents were found to have contracted the disease upon returning to Korea after traveling overseas as of Wednesday.
By Kim Arin (email@example.com