Mandatory quarantines will be scrapped for foreign visitors from all but four countries next month.
South Korea plans to welcome back international tourists even as an Omicron-fueled surge pushes the numbers of new cases to record levels; Thursday saw the nationwide count top 620,000 infections, the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic. But the government is committed to lifting quarantine restrictions for vaccinated arrivals coming in from most places on April 1, making it an outlier in East Asia.
Travelers will be considered fully vaccinated if they have had their second dose between 14 and 180 days before arrival, or received a booster shot within the same period. South Korea’s interior ministry has said that more vaccinations administered outside the country will be recognized. The upcoming arrangement will supersede the existing Vaccinated Travel Lane with Singapore, which entails multiple rounds of testing on both ends and a requirement to buy travel insurance with a minimum coverage of 30 million Korean won (just under US$25,000).
Before entering the country, visitors will need to use Q-Code, a new online portal, to upload their vaccination records, along with information such as passport details, a phone number, and their intended address in South Korea. Those who have completed the pre-entry registration process will be given a QR code to scan at immigration.
Passengers must also be cleared through a PCR test within 48 hours of departure, except for children aged five and below. An on-arrival test will be mandatory too, with tourists asked to remain at the airport until they receive a negative result. They’ll then be free to travel around the country without having to download a contact tracing app.
But all visitors from Myanmar, Pakistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan are required to self-isolate for seven days, regardless of their vaccination status. Similarly, unvaccinated travelers rest of the world will need to spend the first week of their stay inside a government-approved isolation facility.