After a quiet few months, it seems Covid cases are spiraling out of control again. Asia has always been stricter when it comes to pandemic management, and South Korea’s latest move is proof this has not changed, unlike the recent border openings have led us to believe. Now, all tourists arriving in the country will be subject to testing on arrival.
The beginning of summer may have been promising, with multiple countries dropping their Covid rules simultaneously, and some going as far as scrapping quarantine for infected tourists, but now rules are being tightened once more. With its latest move, South Korea has become the first major destination to formally react to the viral surge.
Here are the latest entry requirements for South Korea:
Covid Surge Leads Korean Government To Tighten Border Measures
On July 25, the Korean Government again amended its border policy in response to the rising Covid cases led by the BA.5 sub-lineage of Omicron. Now, all travelers entering the country, and that includes tourists coming from the United States and Canada, will be required to undergo a PCR test within 24 hours of entry and quarantine until a negative result is issued.
Previously, South Korea required tests within three days, giving travelers more time to fulfill the requirement. Now, they will be subject to even stricter controls when landing and a shorter time frame for testing. Effectively, the new measure marks the return of on-arrival testing, signalling a shift in attitude for the Asian nation.
Its long-awaited reopening took place as early as March, following two years of closure, but unlike Australia, a country once completely isolated, South Korea did not proceed in rolling back restrictions. Oz has removed all of its entry curbs and reinstated the usual pre-pandemic travel rules, but the same cannot be said for the birthplace of K-pop.
Entry Requirements For South Korea Starting July 2022
Entering South Korea today, visitors must prepare for all of the following:
- All travelers, regardless of vaccination status, must provide a negative PCR test issued up to two calendar days preceding arrival, or a Rapid Antigen Test not older than one calendar day
- Tourists must upload their personal and health information on the country’s Q-Code system before boarding the aircraft – these will be checked upon arrival
- Since July 25, visitors and returning residents must submit a second Covid test up to 24 hours after landing*
- International arrivals must remain in isolation at their hotel, alternative accommodation, or place of residence until a negative test result is issued and verified by South Korean authorities**
*The cost of the test must be borne by travelers, unless they are habitual residents of the Republic of Korea. Those holding a long-term visa may request free tests at a local public health center.
**Verification is carried out directly on the Q-Code app. This means visitors are encouraged to upload their negative test result to the application, after which they can end isolation.
Positive Tests Will Result In A Mandatory 7-Day Quarantine
Foreigners allowed to board a flight to South Korea upon presentation of a negative Covid test, and quarantine arrangements, but who in turn test positive after arriving, will be forced to move into a government-listed isolation center for a week, or isolate at home if they are permanent residents. Further PCR tests are not needed once this period elapses.
In short, Americans have two options landing in the country: either taking a test immediately at the airport and bypassing the short quarantine, should a negative test result be indeed obtained, or uploading a negative test result to the Q-Code app up to 24 hours later while isolating for one day. We don’t know about you, but we might be going with the former.
In order to cope with the rise in demand for on-arrival testing now that the testing window has been shortened, the Government is expanding the number of test centers are international airports. When flying into South Korea from the United States, it is likely passengers will arrive at the Incheon International Airport, the country’s largest serving the Seoul Capital Area. At present, Incheon has three testing sites.
How Serious Is The New Covid Wave?
According to the latest data coming from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, 71.170 cases were reported as of July 21. Out of those, 320 are imported infections from overseas. 0.44% may not seem like much, but the case count could has continuously hit the 70,000 mark for three consecutive days, averaging 72,711 on the week ending July 26.
Additionally, the Korea Tourism Organization website notes that the Government could further limit the 48-hour pre-departure testing window and remove Rapid Tests as an option ‘should the wave persist’. So far, both forms of testing – RAT/ART and PCR – are accepted as valid proof of entry, but that could change with little to no warning.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories