*This Korea coronavirus update will post the latest report every week. 

Korea Covid-19 in Numbers (as of October 18, 2021)

  • Total Number of Cases:  342,396

  • Total Number of Recovered Patients: 310,344

  • Total Number of Reported Deaths: 2,660

  • COVID-19 Warning Level in Korea: Level 3, COVID Risk is High, Travelers should avoid all nonessential travel.

*Data lifted from the latest Worldometers.info report and the CDC.

For the purpose of discussion and due to the unavailability of data from North Korea, this Korea coronavirus update will focus on the current situation in South Korea. 

korea coronavirus update

What is the Current COVID-19 Situation in South Korea?

South Korea is among those Asian countries that were badly hit by the ongoing health crisis. But they are not as severely affected compared with their neighbouring regions. South Korea was able to contain the spread of the virus. Thanks to the immediate response of the government when it comes to testing, contact tracing, and isolation. As of writing, South Korea has completed 2,612,231 tests, with a 1% positivity rate. 

The success of the coronavirus containment was partly due to the unwavering support and cooperation of the citizens. When the government imposed the use of invasive contact tracing, they were able to track the infection pathway and identify individuals who have exposure to the infected person. 

South Korea has prepared itself well by launching the Epidemic Investigation Support System, a platform that automated the contract tracing. This platform allowed officials to complete the contract tracing within minutes, reducing the spread of the virus instantly. 

Despite this, however, the risk for infection remains high in the country. More recently, a surge in the number of positive cases was reported as the country eased much of the restrictions and social distancing measures by allowing establishments to start their operations. 

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Is It Safe To Travel To South Korea Now?

Travel safety to South Korea during the time of the pandemic involves caution as there are several areas where a virus cluster is present. Several restrictions apply to those who want to travel to South Korea now. Foreign nationals who have travelled to Hubei province in China within the last 14 days will not be permitted entry into the country. 

Transit passengers must submit to a temperature check upon their arrival in Korea. Those with pertinent symptoms related to COVID-19 will need to undergo testing and hospitalization if found positive. Individuals not exhibiting any symptoms and has a negative test will be allowed to continue on their journey. They are also required to stay in transit hotels available in Terminals 1 and 2 of the Incheon Airport. 

Most travellers are allowed entry into the country. However, please do note that the government enforces “distancing in daily life” as part of their approach to managing COVID-19 cases. This approach means that while most stores and public establishments are open, both the local and national governments have full authority to regulate gatherings as they deem necessary.  

What are the Requirements if I Need to Travel to South Korea During the Pandemic?

If you are travelling to South Korea, you may need to arm yourself with the proper information. 

All individuals travelling to South Korea regardless of their nationality and length of stay in the country are mandated to undergo COVID-19 testing and 14-day quarantine. Those who will test positive will need to undergo isolation and treatment at designated facilities. 

Asymptomatic individuals, Korean nationals, long-term foreign visitors with Alien Registration Card, and a known Korean residence can self-quarantine at home. Those who are coming from Europe or the U.S. must present a test within 72 hours and from other areas, a test must be presented within 14 days. 

Foreign short-term travellers must undergo a 14-day quarantine at a government-approved facility. Those coming from the U.S. and Europe will need to undergo testing upon entry and before moving to the quarantine facility. Individuals from elsewhere will undergo immediate transfer to the quarantine facility and testing within 14 days. 

All those staying in quarantine facilities will need to shoulder approximately 100,000 Korean Won daily to cover the expenses. 

While in South Korea, all foreign nationals and short term travellers must be aware that they should adhere to the rules set by the government. The Korean government has made it clear that failure to comply with self-quarantine and treatment measures can result in deportation, visa revocation, entry ban, and liability for economic losses due to the transmission of the virus. 

It is also mandatory for all travellers to have an available phone number where officials can contact you. A hotel phone number will not do. They must also have a mobile device to install self-diagnosis and contact tracing apps.

Are there South Korean Flights Available Now?

Yes, some flights are now accepting inbound and outbound travel to South Korea. For high-risk countries like the U.S., U.K., and Canada, flights remain limited. However, travellers from low-risk countries do not have restrictions. Some individuals from Japan and China cannot enter South Korea at the moment. 

Korea Coronavirus Update: What Safety Health Practices Must I Observe While in South Korea?

If you are travelling to South Korea, it is mandatory to observe the necessary measures to protect yourself and others from getting the COVID-19 infection. There are no curfews in place, but there are intercity restrictions in the country at the moment, particularly those entering Korea from abroad. Those who cannot show proof of the completion of the 14-day government-mandated quarantine cannot board domestic connecting flights to Jeju and Busan without showing 

Note that restrictions have relaxed, and those who want to travel around South Korea can do so with the appropriate precautions:

  • Submit to contact tracing requirements. Korea has developed a QR code-based access to high-risk facilities such as restaurants, bars, clubs, and other entertainment areas.
  • Maintain at least six feet distance and avoid any contact from anyone who is not a member of your travel party.
  • Keep your hands always clean by washing with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Always wear a medical mask and face shield and keep your face protected when in public places. 
  • Try to avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Avoid any contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, do not travel.
  • Keep yourself informed about the local news, as they can impose notices once they note that cases are rising. 

After you travel, you must still take extra caution to protect yourself and others from the disease further. Your travel exposed you to the risk of COVID-19, and you may have the virus already without knowing it. You will put your friends, family, and community at risk for 14 days after exposure to the virus. You should take these actions to avoid further spread of the virus:

  • As much as possible, stay at home.
  • Avoid interacting with other people.
  • Undergo testing for COVID-19 infection.

Note: This Korea coronavirus update was first published in October 2020 and has been updated to include the latest developments.

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