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Not discriminatory to Chinese travelers

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

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

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

Choi also said that its policies cover “all Korean nationals and non-Korean nationals coming from China. This is just not confined only to Chinese people. There isn’t any discrimination for 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.

“China’s COVID-19 situation remains to be worsening …which has created the potential for latest variants to be detected,” he said.

The omicron variant swept China in December, after authorities relaxed stringent contact tracing requirements that had forced many individuals to remain near their homes for nearly three years. As of Jan. 8, Beijing formally relaxed its international border controls, opening the door to more travel in and in another country.

It’s unlikely that a dangerous latest Covid variant is spreading in China, Dr. Chris Murray, Seattle-based director of a health research center on the University of Washington, told CNBC in late December. 

China halts visas

Greater than a dozen countries have announced latest rules for travelers departing from China. Most are requiring travelers departing from China to check negative for Covid before arriving — the identical requirement China has for international travelers to the mainland.

But South Korea and Japan — two top destinations for Chinese travelers — said they are usually not increasing flights in response to China’s border reopening. South Korea also announced plans to limit short-term visas to travelers from China.

China’s embassies in South Korea and Japan announced Tuesday that they might stop issuing visas to “Korean nationals” and “Japanese residents.”

Thai officials welcome Chinese passengers at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Jan. 9, 2023.

Rachen Sageamsak | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

The announcement by the Chinese Embassy in Korea said the rule would apply to visas for tourism, business and medical reasons, and that it was “following China’s domestic guidelines,” based on a CNBC translation.

“China firmly rejects a handful of nations’ discriminatory entry restriction measures targeting China and can take reciprocal measures,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Tuesday. 

‘Lack of transparency’

South Korea’s Choi said that policy decisions got here after “in-depth discussions with relevant government ministries and experts.”

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

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing Wednesday that america is requiring that travelers from China take pre-departure tests due to “spread” and “prevalence” of infections in China, “but in addition due to lack of adequate and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data being reported from the PRC.”

“It’s the shortage of transparency that has compounded our concern for the potential for a variant to emerge within the PRC and potentially to spread well beyond its borders,” he said.

‘Particularly reasonable’

As a responsible member of the international community, we are going to share with the world the Covid-19 data that we’re analyzing.

Seung-ho Choi

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency

Yet a Shanghai-based finance skilled, who asked that we seek advice from him as Derek, called South Korea’s restrictions “very reasonable.”  

“None of my friends would go on a flight stuffed with Covid positive people,” he said.

Chinese citizen Cheryl Yang said for a lot of in China, travel is the least of their concerns.

“Many individuals I do know have been sick or [are] sick, and numerous kids are off school,” she said. “Travel could be a secondary problem in the mean time.”

‘Only temporary’

Choi said South Korea’s latest Covid travel restrictions are “only temporary” and were made to “place the best priority on the health and safety of individuals residing in South Korea.”

The surge of Covid infections sweeping across China may mean the country can quickly move past the outbreaks, allowing the economy to rebound quickly — some say, as early because the second quarter of 2023.

Read more about China’s reopening

Noting that China’s reopening is progressing faster than most expected, a report by HSBC Global Research published Jan. 5. stated that “China will emerge from Covid-19 and rebound strongly from 2Q23.”

Within the meantime, Choi said, “We are going to make the utmost effort to assist the world overcome the pandemic.”

“As a responsible member of the international community, we are going to share with the world the Covid-19 data that we’re analyzing,” he said.

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