People wait in line to get COVID-19 tests at a virus testing site in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, last Saturday. (Yonhap)
South Korea said Saturday that it will restrict visa issuance and arrivals from eight African nations, including South Africa, starting the next day to block the inflow of the new Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
It said South Africa and seven other nearby countries -- Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi -- will be re-listed as closely watched nations, subject to visa restrictions and tougher quarantine requirements.
All arrivals from those regions must go through mandatory 10-day quarantine at designated facilities, with three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests during the period.
The measure takes effect from Sunday, they added.
The move comes as the United States, the European Union and some Asian countries have announced plans to temporarily halt flights heading to or coming from the eight countries on concerns about the new virus strain found in the African continent, newly named Omicron.
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier designated the newly identified coronavirus strain as a "variant of concern," which is considered potentially more transmissible than other existing ones.
South Korea has not yet reported any Omicron variant infection so far. (Yonhap)