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South Korea to scrap COVID test for travelers from China

Beijing willing to consider reciprocal measures when appropriate

A Chinese tourist checks luggage while waiting for a COVID-19 test result upon arrival at Incheon International Airport in South Korea on Jan 4.   © Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korea will not require travelers from China to test for COVID-19 upon arrivals from next month although they will still need to take pre-departure tests, a South Korean official said on Wednesday, its latest easing of rules to stop the virus.

South Korea imposed several restrictions on passengers from China after it lifted its stringent zero-COVID policy late last year, but it has been easing them, citing an improved COVID situation in its neighbor.

"Additional easing of quarantine measures appears possible as the positive rate among arrivals from China has dropped from 18.4% in the first week of January to 0.6% in the third week of February," Kim Sung-ho, a vice-ministerial official at the Ministry of Interior and Safety, said during a meeting on the COVID response.

Effective March 1, South Korea will also allow flights from China to land in airports other than its main Incheon International Airport, which has been the sole gateway for flights from China since early January.

Mandatory PCR tests before departure for passengers from China will remain in place until March 10, Kim said, to monitor and evaluate the impact of the rule relaxation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing was willing to consider reciprocal measures when the time was appropriate.

South Korea earlier resumed issuing short-term visas for travelers from China, followed by Beijing's lifting of similar visa curbs that were imposed in a response for Seoul's border restrictions.

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