The South Korean government is putting partial restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals as of 12 a.m. Tuesday due to the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. “We will put an entry ban on all foreigners who resided or visited China’s Hubei province within 14 days,” said Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun. South Korean citizens can enter the country but will be on self-quarantine for 14 days. The visa-free program for Chinese travelers to the southern island of Jeju will be temporarily suspended.
This measure seems really belated considering that the anxiety of South Korean citizens reached a boiling point as the number of patients diagnosed with the pneumonia rapidly increased. The U.S. government imposed Thursday a travel ban to China on its citizens and an entry ban on foreign nationals who traveled to China within two weeks right after the World Health Organization declared the virus outbreak a public health emergency on Thursday. The Japanese government also banned foreigners who visited China’s Hubei province from entering the country from Saturday.
The novel coronavirus is known to be more infectious than SARS. As of Sunday morning, more than 14,000 are diagnosed with the disease and more than 300 died from it. It spread to 27 countries. It is blighting daily lives of everyone in the world as academics suggested the possibilities of subclinical infection and aerial infection. Also in South Korea, 15 Korean citizens have been diagnosed with the disease. Koreans are bound to be anxious because some 20,000 Chinese citizens enter South Korea every day through airports and ports.
The government needs to manage entries of those who depart from other parts of China. The U.S. allocated all flights from China to seven airports for enhanced screening starting Saturday. South Korea needs to increase efficiency and intensity of quarantine by concentrating all flights and vessels departing from China into one or two airports and ports. Information on passengers entering South Korea via a third country after leaving China should be shared with airliners and airport quarantine in real-time.
Whereabouts of 15 confirmed patients must be publicized quickly. Lack of accurate information instigates public anxiety and inflicts losses on stores and public places. Many South Korean citizens refrain from going out because there is not enough information to feel safe. Individuals should keep good personal hygiene, but the government’s effort to reassure distressed citizens is pivotal.