[Q&A] All overseas arrivals required to spend 2 weeks in quarantine as of Apr. 1

Posted on : 2020-03-31 19:08 KST Modified on : 2020-03-31 19:08 KST
Self-quarantine needs to take place at residences or designated government facilities
Travelers from Europe are tested at an open-air screening center outside Incheon International Airport on Mar. 29. (Yonhap News)
Travelers from Europe are tested at an open-air screening center outside Incheon International Airport on Mar. 29. (Yonhap News)
As of Apr. 1, all people entering South Korea from overseas will be required to spend two weeks in quarantine. These tougher quarantine measures have already been imposed on arrivals from Europe and the US, but an increasing number of cases of COVID-19 are showing up in people arriving from other countries. The 29 imported cases of the disease newly diagnosed on Mar. 30 included one patient from Indonesia, in addition to 12 from Europe and 16 from the Americas.While tightening quarantine will decrease the number of people visiting on short trips for tourism and similar purposes, this is still likely to result in thousands more people being placed under self-quarantine every day. As of Mar. 29, there were 14,009 people under self-quarantine.“It’s impossible to identify all infected individuals in the quarantine phase at the airport. We’re enforcing a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine period because people might feel fine when they arrive in the country but could develop symptoms later, following the incubation period,” said Jung Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).The key to slowing the domestic spread of COVID-19 is stopping it from entering from overseas and subsequently being transmitted at the community level, Jung said, which is what makes self-quarantine so important right now. This article uses a Q&A format to explain how people under self-quarantine are being supervised, what rules they’re supposed to follow, and what precautions they’re supposed to take after entering the country.
Process for people arriving in S. Korea from overseas
Process for people arriving in S. Korea from overseas

Q: I arrived from overseas without any suspicious symptoms, so I’m being told to spend two weeks in self-quarantine. How am I supposed to get home from the airport?

A: People who enter the country from overseas are supposed to immediately go home from the airport. The best option is to drive home, but if they don’t have access to a car, designated shuttle buses and carriages on the KTX high-speed train are available for a fee. Those living in the Greater Seoul area can ride shuttle buses to 16 locations in Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province; those living elsewhere can ride a shuttle bus to Gwangmyeong Station, where they can transfer to a KTX carriage that will take them to a station in their area. After that, they can drive home in their own vehicle or ride in a vehicle provided by their local government. They’re expected to wear a mask and disinfect their hands over the course of their journey.

Q: After arriving from overseas, is it OK to spend my two weeks of self-quarantine at a hotel or guesthouse, rather than a designated quarantine facility?

A: That’s not allowed. People are required to quarantine themselves at their personal residence or at a quarantine facility; staying at a hotel or other form of public lodging is subject to the same punishment as breaking quarantine. Breaking the rules of self-quarantine constitutes a violation of the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act and the Quarantine Act. The punishment was toughened recently, and offenders can receive up to a year in prison or a fine of as much as 10 million won (US$8,211). Non-Koreans can be deported or banned from entering the country under the Immigration Act.

Regarding punishment for foreign nationals who break quarantine

Q: A British national in his 30s and an American teenager studying in Korea were in the news recently after they left their residence in violation of self-quarantine measures. Will they be punished as well?

A: These cases require further review because the two individuals in question entered the country before the mandatory self-quarantine rules took effect on Mar. 22 for people from Europe and on Mar. 28 for people from the US. The British national entered the country on Mar. 20, and the American student on Mar. 15. After the British national is released from the hospital and is capable of answering a summons, we’re planning to call him in for questioning and decide whether he’ll be deported or banned from entering Korea in accordance with the Immigration Act.

Q: There’s bound to be a large increase in the people under self-quarantine. How are they all going to be managed?

A: Before people are allowed to enter the country, they have to install the “self-quarantine safety protection” app at the airport. In the case of those who don’t have a mobile device or have trouble installing the app, immigration officials will determine their address and will share that information with the local government in question. The local government will then put them in the care of a caseworker, and their location will be tracked using a GIS (geographic information system). Citizens are also encouraged to report those who break quarantine. Those who are under self-quarantine will be provided with food and other basic necessities by their local government to ensure they have no reason to leave the house.

Q: What should I do if I develop symptoms while under self-quarantine?

A: If you experience a fever, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, or breathing difficulties, don’t visit a doctor. Instead, you need to immediately contact your caseworker or use the self-quarantine app to arrange a test. If you indicate your symptoms on the app, that information will be immediately communicated to your local government’s community health center and, if necessary, a test will be carried out.

By Park Da-hae and Noh Ji-won, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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