South Korea Reduces COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

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The Republic of Korea has taken several steps in easing its entry restrictions for international travelers. Airports are now operating at pre-pandemic levels as the country aims to encourage tourism for summer 2022.

As of June 8, 2022, unvaccinated individuals no longer have to quarantine on arrival. Before this, only fully vaccinated passengers could avoid a week of isolation.

Tourists visiting South Korea do not need to enter their vaccination details into the country’s Q-Code (Quarantine Covid-19 Defence) system anymore. Previously, this had been a requirement.

Regulations at Incheon International Airport have also been greatly reduced.

According to South Korea’s Central Disaster Management Headquarters, the decision was taken because the COVID-19 situation has stabilized in the East Asian nation, while demand for air travel has risen.

With the South Korean ETA (K-ETA) available online to grant visa-free trips, international travelers can now visit the country much more easily than before thanks to the easing of regulations.

How Has South Korea Eased Its Quarantine Rules?

The most important news for passengers is that quarantine is no longer compulsory for unvaccinated travelers.

Before June 8, 2022, foreign visitors were required to enter quarantine for 7 days after arriving in South Korea if they did not meet the country’s standards for being “fully vaccinated”. This meant receiving a full course of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

All coronavirus vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) are accepted by South Korea, including the following:

  • Pfizer
  • Moderna
  • Janssen
  • Covishield
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

Fully vaccinated travelers were able to avoid having to quarantine. To do this, they had to register the details of their vaccinations in the South Korean Q-Code system.

Now that vaccination is no longer a requirement to avoid quarantine, this step is no longer necessary. However, passengers must still upload their test results.

It is worth noting that any traveler will still have to quarantine for 7 days if they test positive for coronavirus on arrival in South Korea, regardless of their vaccination status.

How Have South Korea’s Airport Regulations Changed?

South Korea’s main port of entry is Incheon International Airport. For a large part of the pandemic, the airport was operating at a reduced capacity.

Flights were limited to 20 an hour and the airport was closed from 8pm to 5am.

These measures have now been eased.

Incheon International Airport is now operating 24 hours a day once again. The number of flights has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with 40 permitted to land per hour instead of 20.

South Korean authorities hope that by increasing flights, ticket prices will fall and demand will increase in time for summer. With the peak travel months of July and August fast approaching, the government plans to boost tourism by easing restrictions at the airports.

Does South Korea Still Have Any Travel Restrictions for COVID-19?

There are still certain coronavirus travel restrictions that travelers should be aware of when planning a trip to South Korea.

Passengers must test negative for COVID-19 before traveling to the Republic.

The pre-flight test can be a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours before departure or any of the following types of test taken within 48 hours before departure:

  • PCR
  • RT-PCR
  • LAMP
  • NAAT
  • NEAR
  • SDA
  • TMA

The test result must be in English or Korean, or in another language, but with a certified translation into English or Korean.

Passengers may also have to take a PCR test within 3 days after arriving in South Korea at their own expense. There is no need to quarantine until the results are ready.

However, if the result is positive for COVID-19, the individual will be quarantined for 7 days.

Traveling to South Korea in Summer 2022

International travel to South Korea has been steadily increasing since early 2022 in spite of the remaining travel restrictions. In May, around 930,000 passengers passed through Incheon International Airport, compared to 357,000 in January.

It is hoped that the easing of restrictions will increase the number of visitors even further.

Experts have commented that Incheon may see as many as 4 million passengers a month by the end of 2022 — reaching 70% of the numbers the airport saw before the pandemic.

However, industry experts warn that it will likely take a while for tourism to return to pre-pandemic levels in South Korea. Not all airlines are in a position to increase the number of flights right away. In addition, flight prices will probably remain relatively high due to the growing cost of fuel.

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