Not discriminatory to Chinese travelers

South Korea on Tuesday hit back at claims that Covid rules for Chinese travelers are “discriminatory,” saying more than half of its imported cases come from China.

In response to CNBC, Seung-ho Choi, a deputy director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said that up to 80% of South Korea’s “imported confirmed cases” are from China.

Choi said the number of people traveling from China who tested positive for Covid-19 increased 14 times from November to December.

Choi also said that its policies cover “all Korean nationals and non-Korean nationals who come from China. It is not limited to the Chinese.

Citing South Korea’s proximity to China, Choi said a surge in infections in China could put South Korea at risk.

China travelers 'angry' and other top CNBC headlines

“The situation of COVID-19 in China is getting worse … which creates the possibility of finding new variants,” he said.

The omicron variant swept through China in December, after authorities relaxed strict contact tracing requirements that had forced many people to stay close to their homes for nearly three years. On January 8, Beijing formally relaxed international border controls, opening the door to more domestic and international travel.

It is unlikely that a dangerous new variant of Covid has spread in China, Dr. Chris Murray, Seattle-based director of a health research center at the University of Washington, told CNBC in late December.

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China has stopped visas

More than a dozen countries have announced new rules for travelers departing from China. Most require travelers departing from China to test negative for Covid before arriving – the same requirement China has for mainland international travelers.

But South Korea and Japan – two top destinations for Chinese travelers – said they had not increased flights in response to China’s opening of the border. South Korea also announced plans to limit short-term visas for travelers from China.

The Chinese embassies in South Korea and Japan announced on Tuesday that they will stop issuing visas to “Korean nationals” and “Japanese citizens.”

Thai officials welcome Chinese passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on January 9, 2023.

Rachen Sageamsak | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

The announcement by the Chinese Embassy in Korea said the rule applies to visas for tourism, business and medical reasons, and that it “follows China’s local guidelines,” according to a translation. on CNBC.

“China firmly rejects some measures to prevent the entry of discrimination by countries targeting China and will take proportionate measures,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday.

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‘Lack of transparency’

South Korea’s Choi said the policy decisions came after “deep discussions with relevant government ministries and experts.”

Noting that the “Chinese government has stopped publishing data on daily confirmed cases,” Choi said the measures were “inevitable.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing on Wednesday that the United States is requiring travelers from China to take pre-departure tests because of the “prevalence” and “prevalence” of those infection in China, “but also due to the lack of sufficient and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data reported from the PRC.”

“It is this lack of transparency that increases our concern for the potential for a variant to emerge in the PRC and possibly spread beyond its borders,” he said.

‘too high’

As a responsible member of the international community, we will share with the world the Covid-19 data we have analyzed.

Seung-ho Choi

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency

Yet a Shanghai-based financial professional, who asked to be identified only as Derek, called South Korea’s restrictions “very fair.”

“None of my friends would go on a flight full of Covid positives,” he said.

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Chinese citizen Cheryl Yang said for many in China, travel is the least of their worries.

“Many people I know are sick or [are] sick, and many children are out of school,” he said. “Travel will be a secondary problem for now.”

‘Temporary only’

Choi said the new Covid travel restrictions to South Korea were “only temporary” and were made to “put the highest priority on the health and safety of people living in South Korea.”

The surge in Covid infections spreading across China could mean the country is able to weather outbreaks more quickly, allowing the economy to recover quickly – some say, as early as the second quarter in 2023.

Read more about China’s reopening

Noting that the reopening of China is progressing faster than many expected, a report by HSBC Global Research published on January 5. states that “China will emerge from Covid-19 and will rise strongly from 2Q23.”

In the meantime, Choi said, “We will do our best to help the world overcome the pandemic.”

“As a responsible member of the international community, we will share with the world the data on Covid-19 that we have analyzed,” he said.


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