South Korea ends Covid visa restrictions for China travellers

Health workers guide travellers arriving from China at a Covid-19 testing centre at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul on January 3, 2023. Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP

Seoul, South Korea -- South Korea said Friday it would begin issuing short-term visas to travellers from China again, ending a Covid-linked restriction that sparked a furious response and tit-for-tat measures from Beijing.

In January, Seoul imposed travel requirements, including visa restrictions and PCR testing, on all visitors from China, as the world's most-populous country battled a surge in coronavirus cases.

But South Korea said the rate of passengers from China testing positive on arrival had dropped to 1.4 percent last week, down from 20 percent when the curbs were first introduced.

As a result, Seoul will "remove short-term visa restrictions on China and resume issuing them starting from February 11", the country's disease control centre said in a statement.

The drop reflects the current situation in China, it said, where there have been "no signs of new coronavirus spread or mutations after the lunar new year holidays".

Days after Seoul stopped issuing the visas in January, Beijing pushed back by suspending the granting of short-term visas for South Koreans, and calling Seoul's measures "discriminatory".

Other restrictions, including testing requirements, remain in place.

Travellers from China must provide a negative test before departure and undergo a PCR test within the first day of arrival.

Those testing positive are required to be quarantined for a week.

South Korea had removed pre-flight and on-arrival testing requirements for travellers from all other countries last year.

Seoul recently dropped rules requiring people to wear masks in most indoor spaces, ending one of the country's last major pandemic restrictions as Covid-19 cases dwindle.

© Agence France-Presse

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