The government started implementing a stricter testing rule for entrants to Korea on Monday as the Covid-19 resurged in the country.
Health authorities said those entering Korea from abroad must undergo the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on the day they arrive in principle. However, those foreign arrivals who cannot take the test on arriving day for various reasons can put it off until the following day.
The retightened policy will replace the current one, which allowed overseas entrants to take tests within three days of entry, implemented in June when Covid-19 entered a decreasing trend.
Among overseas entrants, Koreans and long-term foreigners can take PCR tests free of charge at their homes or the local public health center. Foreigners staying for a short time can receive the test at the Covid-19 test center at the airport. However, such tests will not be free from charge, forcing recipients to pay in full.
After undergoing the PCR test, the government recommends travelers wait at home or in their accommodation until the results are available and receive a supervised rapid antigen test (RAT) six to seven days after entering Korea.
Inspection results must be registered in Q-code, the government’s quarantine information pre-entry system. Health officials will manage the information in connection with regional public health centers.
If the Covid-19 resurge becomes more severe, quarantine officials will also consider forcing international travelers to take a PCR test 48 hours before their entry.
From Monday, quarantine officials also banned face-to-face meetings again at nursing hospitals, facilities, mental hospitals, and facilities.
Quarantine officials stressed that the strengthened regulation is to protect residents and workers at such institutions, which have become one of the main cluster infection spots since the Omicron subvariant BA.5, with a fast transmission speed and high immunity evasion, became the dominant strain.
According to officials, cluster infections have occurred at 18 nursing facilities, six nursing hospitals, five facilities for the disabled, and three mental hospitals in July alone.
On Monday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) confirmed 35,883 new virus cases, raising the cumulative caseload to 19,247,496.
The death toll came to 24,890, up 17 from the previous day, with a fatality rate of 0.13 percent. However, critically ill patients decreased from 144 to 142.
According to the agency, about 44.64 million among 52 million Koreans have been fully vaccinated. In addition, about 33.44 million people had received their first booster shots, and 5.19 million had their second booster shots.
Meanwhile, the quarantine officials confirmed another infection case by the newest Omicron variant BA.2.75, the fourth such case in Korea. Noting that the confirmed person is an acquaintance of the second confirmed BA.2.75 patient, authorities believe that it is the first regional infection spread case.
The KDCA also said it plans to announce the Covid-19 vaccination program next month for the second half, including the plan to introduce retooled Covid-19 vaccines known to be more effective against virus variants.
The move came in response to news reports criticizing health authorities for dragging their feet in adopting revamped vaccines, in contrast to the U.S. and Japan, which are on track to use them.
"We plan to bring in some 60 million doses of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna by the year-end, and the contracts allow us to replace the vaccines with retooled vaccines when they are developed," the KDCA said in a release.
The agency said the government has been in talks with vaccine makers and monitoring the trend to adopt retooled vaccines at an early date and continuing consultations with experts to ensure safe and effective vaccination.