Seoul, Jan 1 (efe-epa).- Foreigners will require to test negative for the coronavirus before they arrive in South Korea from the next week as the country steps up its fight against the virus outbreak, officials said on Friday.
Foreigners flying into the country will have to show from Jan.8 onwards a negative certificate of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus test carried out 72 hours before boarding, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a notification.
The rule will come into force for foreigners entering by sea from Jan.15.
South Korea on Friday reported 1,029 new coronavirus cases as the country welcomed the New Year with subdued celebrations.
The country had largely-controlled the pandemic, but in recent months, a more intense wave of infections has gripped the nation.
The daily infection figures have been hovering around 1,000 for the past many days, mainly due to cluster infections from churches, private gatherings, and a prison.
The latest tally was up from 967 on Thursday.
The country has 61,769, with 917 deaths, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
The country has also reported five cases of a new rapidly-spreading coronavirus variant, which first surfaced in Britain.
The government has banned all flights from Britain until mid-January to prevent the virus variant from spreading in the country.
The authorities have asked all passengers from Britain and South Africa to show negative Covid-19 test reports.
The country on Dec.13 registered more than 1,000 daily Covid-19 cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
President Moon Jae-in said the country was facing its “biggest-ever” coronavirus crisis since the arrival of the virus in January.
Moon said if the situation continued to worsen, the government would consider the possibility of raising social distancing restrictions to Level 3, the highest in the country’s five-tier Covid-19 alert system, from the Level 2.5 that is now in effect in Seoul and its surroundings.
“It’s hard to imagine the pain and damage that (the people) are going to suffer from the elevation to Level 3,” Moon said.
“This is the last watershed before vaccine and treatment are used. Until then, social distancing is the strongest vaccine and treatment. Enhancing social distancing to Level 3 is the last means (to use).”
Level 3 would not amount to a lockdown, which has been imposed in some parts of Europe and the United States, but seeks to restrict social and business activities.
Under this level, gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited and schools can only offer online classes. EFE-EPA