Covid-19: South Korea halts visa waivers for countries banning Koreans

By Luke Barras-hill |


Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun announced the suspension of visa waiver programmes for selected countries on Wednesday. Source: Office for Government Policy Coordination / Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

South Korea will temporarily suspend visa exemptions and visa-free access to countries that prohibit entry to South Korean citizens, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun announced today (8 April).

Measures strengthening restrictions on foreign travellers arriving into the country for non-essential reasons have also been implemented to stem imported coronavirus (Covid-19) cases.

“We will maintain the foundation of openness, but we will strengthen the restrictions according to the principle of reciprocity,” he said at a government Covid-19 briefing.

“The related ministries are requested to prepare an implementation plan as soon as possible based on the results of the discussion today.”

A total of 148 countries have imposed entry bans on South Koreans due to Covid-19, reports the Korea Herald quoting figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The government’s measures reportedly apply to 88 countries, including 34 countries with visa-free entry programmes such as Australia and Canada and 54 with visa-waiver programmes such as France, Russia and Thailand, adds the Korea Herald.

South Korea has gradually stepped up immigration restrictions in the face of Covid-19 but has not enacted blanket border closures, instead opting for stringent testing and quarantining for overseas arrival passengers.

Effective 1 April, travellers entering South Korea have been told to self-isolate for two weeks.

“Recently, the share of foreign inflows accounts for almost half of new confirmers,” said the PM.  “Another problem is that the pandemic sweeping Europe and the United States shows signs of spreading to Asian countries such as Japan.”


Hong Kong International Airport Terminal 1.


At the time of writing, South Korea’s number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had reached 10,384, with 200 deaths and 6,776 recoveries, according to research from The John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The number of global infections from Covid-19 has surpassed 1.4 million, with more than 82,000 deaths and more than 300,000 recoveries.

In another important travel advisory affecting the industry, Hong Kong extended on Monday (6 April) until further notice entry restrictions on non-Hong Kong residents arriving from overseas countries or regions in the past 14 days.

The special administrative region’s government first announced the regulations on 23 March.

They also apply to non-Hong Kong residents coming in from the Mainland, Macau and Taiwan.

All transit services at Hong Kong International Airport remain suspended.

Travellers will be subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine, mirroring arrangements for those entering Hong Kong from the Mainland.

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