The South Korean government plans to airlift some 150 Korean nationals and their immediate family members from Wuhan, China, on Tuesday.
The government’s coronavirus response team said Monday that plans are being finalized with Beijing and that this time Chinese nationals who are immediate family members of Koreans will be allowed to leave the Chinese city.
Parents, partners and children of South Korean nationals are allowed to board the flight. China had prohibited Chinese nationals from leaving the city aboard flights chartered by other governments until Wednesday.
“The third flight is set to leave from Incheon on the 11th, and arrive at Gimpo Airport in the morning of the 12th, and the final negotiations with China are underway,” Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip said Monday.
As with the two earlier flights, Chinese and Korean authorities will screen the evacuees before allowing them to board the plane. Those showing symptoms related to novel coronavirus infection are required to remain in China. According to Seoul, about 150 people have expressed their wish to leave Wuhan aboard the government chartered flight. The number of Koreans and their family members currently in Wuhan has been tallied at about 230.
Once back in the country, those arriving from Wuhan will be quarantined for 14 days at the Joint Forces Military University’s Defense Language Institute in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province.
As for those brought back to the country on two chartered flights at the end of January, the government plans to lift the quarantine at the end of the week if no symptoms develop.
According to the government, those who went into quarantine on Jan. 30 will be released Saturday, and those who arrived Jan. 31 the following day. They will be screened before being released.
While Seoul scrambles to deal with the situation, calls to expand the entry ban on those arriving from China are growing following the three latest confirmed cases.
Korean currently only denies entry to foreigners who have visited Hubei province 14 days prior to arriving in Korea. However, with the number of confirmed cases rising in other areas of China, experts and members of the public have called for a wider ban.
On Sunday, three Koreans who had not visited Hubei province were confirmed to be infected with the virus. The patients are a Korean man and his Chinese wife who stayed in Guangdong province until late January, and the Korean man’s mother. They are the first Koreans believed to have contracted the virus outside Hubei province, adding credence to calls for a wider ban.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said that expanding the ban would be considered, but Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo announced hours later that the measure would be maintained as it is for the time being.
In announcing the decision, Park cited the drastic drop in arrivals from China and the authorities’ response to the situation.
According to Ministry of Justice figures, the number of people arriving from China has more than halved since the government announced entry restrictions. On Feb. 2, when Seoul announced the measures, about 13,000 people arrived here from China, which fell to 5,200 on Saturday.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com