Chinese cities quarantine travellers from Korea amid spike in coronavirus cases

27-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Chinese cities are stepping up restrictions on travellers from South Korea after its neighbour recorded a significant jump in coronavirus cases.

Authorities in Weihai, a coastal city in the eastern province of Shandong, announced on Tuesday that people travelling from South Korea including Chinese passport holders would have to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine on arrival, with immediate effect. Other visitors who had arrived in the city since February 10 had been contacted by telephone for health checks. The measures also applied to travellers from Japan. Temperature checks were being carried out at airports, ports, train and bus stations across the city, Weihai’s Communist Party chief Wang Luming said.

The new rule saw an entire planeload of passengers 144 Chinese and 19 South Koreans placed under quarantine in a downtown hotel when they arrived in the city from Seoul on Tuesday, Yonhap news agency reported, citing a diplomatic source. The local government would cover the cost of their quarantine, the report said.

It came a day after the Civil Aviation Administration of China urged airlines to be cautious about the “risks of incoming coronavirus cases” while keeping transport links running smoothly.

Like many other cities in China, Weihai has been struggling to get back to business amid extreme measures to limit the spread of the new coronavirus after the outbreak began in December. Since late January, people have been advised to stay at home, while many shops, restaurants and factories remain closed and cannot reopen until the city goes 14 days without any new cases, Yonhap reported.

There are growing concerns that China’s efforts to contain the virus including locking down millions of people in Hubei, the central province at the heart of the epidemic could be compromised after nearby South Korea reported a spike in infections, taking the total to more than 900, the most outside China. Ten people have died from the virus in the country.

The coronavirus, which causes a disease known as Covid-19, has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 80,000 so far, mostly in China.

On Tuesday, Korean Air said one of its flight attendants had tested positive for the virus and it was working with health authorities to prevent its spread.

Airfares from South Korea to the Chinese cities of Qingdao and Yanbian have meanwhile shot up in the past few days, prompting speculation on social media that people were heading to parts of China because of the coronavirus outbreak in their country.

Weihai is not the only Chinese city to take precautionary measures. The local government of Qingdao, in Shandong, also introduced a 14-day quarantine for foreign visitors arriving in the city from Monday, in response to what it called the “new situation in the coronavirus outbreak abroad”, without mentioning South Korea.

Qingdao and Weihai both about an hour’s flight from Seoul are popular destinations for South Korean investors.

In the northeast, Shenyang in Liaoning province is conducting temperature checks on all passengers arriving at its airport from abroad, while Chinese nationals arriving from South Korea will be quarantined and tested for the virus.

Another city in the province, Dalian, on Tuesday said it was holding video briefings with the South Korean and Japanese consulates twice a day as part of measures to combat the virus, according to official newspaper Dalian Daily.

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Meanwhile in Yanbian a Korean autonomous prefecture in China’s northeast that is home to a large ethnic Korean community authorities on Monday said they would temporarily shut down all of its scenic spots, and tour agencies would not accept groups from South Korea. Visitors arriving from the country would be collected at the airport by bus and quarantined.

The new measures were announced after Yanbian health authorities confirmed that four passengers had fevers when they arrived on a flight from South Korea. They later tested negative for the virus.

South Korean tourists flock to Yanbian, bordering North Korea, to see the holy Changbai Mountain known as Baekdusan in Korean which they cannot access from the North Korean side.

State media has also weighed in on the situation. Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of state-run nationalist tabloid Global Times, said there should be restrictions on flights from South Korea and visitors from the country should be quarantined for 14 days across China.

“We’re in the same boat as South Korea right now, but it’s also important to strictly curb any return of this epidemic from South Korea,” Hu wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter, on Monday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday said China was willing to step up communication and cooperation with South Korea and Japan to curb the spread of the virus.

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Category: Korea

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