South Korea on Tuesday responded to claims that its Covid rules for Chinese travelers are “discriminatory” by saying greater than half of its imported cases come from China.
In response to CNBC, Seung-ho Choi, deputy director of the Korea Agency for Disease Control and Prevention, said that as much as 80% of South Korea’s “imported confirmed cases” come from China.
Choi said the number of individuals traveling from China who tested positive for Covid-19 increased 14 times from November to December.
Choi also said that his policy covers “all Korean residents and non-Korean residents from China. It’s not only limited to the Chinese. There isn’t any discrimination based on nationality on this measure.”
Citing South Korea’s proximity to China, Choi said a surge in infections in China could put South Korea in danger.
“The COVID-19 situation in China continues to deteriorate … which has created the chance to detect latest variants,” he said.
The omicron variant swept China in December after authorities relaxed strict contact tracing requirements that forced many individuals to remain near their homes for nearly three years. Beginning January 8, Beijing formally eased international border controls, opening the door to more travel in and in another country.
The dangerous latest variant of Covid is unlikely to spread in China, Dr. Chris Murray, director of the health research center at Washington University in Seattle, told CNBC in late December.
More than a dozen countries have announced latest rules for travelers leaving China. Most require travelers leaving China to check negative for Covid before arriving – the identical requirement China has for international travelers heading to the mainland.
However, South Korea and Japan – the 2 hottest destinations from China – said they weren’t increasing flights in response to the reopening of borders with China. South Korea also announced plans to scale back short-stay visas for travelers from China.
Chinese Embassy in South Korea and Japan announced on Tuesday that they might stop issuing visas to “Korean residents” and “Japanese residents”.
Thai officials greet Chinese passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, January 9, 2023.
Rachen Sageamsak | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
Announcement of the Chinese Embassy in Korea he said the rule would apply to visas for tourism, business and medical purposes, and that it was “in step with China’s national guidelines,” as translated by CNBC.
“China firmly rejects several discriminatory countries restricting entry to China and can take measures on a reciprocal basis,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. he said on Tuesday.
Choi of South Korea said the policy decisions were made after “in-depth discussions with relevant ministries and experts.”
Noting that “the Chinese government has stopped releasing data on every day confirmed cases,” Choi said measures were “inevitable.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told a news conference on Wednesday that the U.S. requires travelers from China to be tested before they leave due to the “spread” and “ubiquity” of infection in China, “but in addition due to a scarcity of adequate and transparent data.” epidemiological data and viral genome sequences provided from the PRC’.
“It was the shortage of transparency that heightened our concerns about the opportunity of the variant emerging within the PRC and potentially spreading far beyond its borders,” he said.
However, a Shanghai-based finance specialist who asked us to call him Derek called South Korea’s restrictions “particularly reasonable.”
“None of my friends would fly on a flight stuffed with Covid-positive people,” he said.
Chinese citizen Cheryl Yang said that for a lot of Chinese people, travel is the least of their worries.
“Many people I do know have been sick or [are] sick and plenty of children don’t go to highschool,” she said. “Travelling could be a secondary concern in the meanwhile.”
Choi said South Korea’s latest Covid travel restrictions are “only temporary” and were put in place to “give the very best priority to the health and safety of those living in South Korea.”
A surge in Covid infections in China could mean the country could get well quickly, allowing the economy to rebound quickly – some say as early because the second quarter of 2023.
Noting that China’s reopening is proceeding faster than most expected, a report by HSBC Global Research released on January 5 stated that “China will emerge from Covid-19 and rebound strongly from Q2 23.”
Meanwhile, Choi said, “We will do our greatest to assist the world overcome the pandemic.”
“As a responsible member of the international community, we are going to share the Covid-19 data we analyze with the world,” he said.