On Wednesday, January 4, KST, South Korean authorities announced that they are actively searching for a runaway Chinese national who tested positive for COVID on arrival but fled from the quarantine facility.
The 41-year-old traveler tested positive after he arrived at the Incheon International Airport near Seoul on Tuesday. He was sent to a hotel in Yeongjongdo near the airport, but he ran away while waiting to be assigned a room for the quarantine.
When the authorities checked security footage, they found that the man visited a supermarket some 300 meters from the hotel, but after that, his traces has been difficult to track. If the disease control agency decides to file a complaint against the runaway traveler, the police would start a probe immediately for violating COVID protocols.
If the Chinese national is arrested, he might face a hefty fine along with deportation and restrictions in entering the country in the future.
If arrested, he will face up to one year in prison or a fine of up to ₩10.0 million KRW (about $7,820 USD)…He will receive a departure order and will be restricted from entering Korea for certain period.
— Kim Ju Young, director of the medical support team at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters
With the rise of new COVID cases in China and lapse of its zero-COVID policies, many countries, including South Korea, have imposed special protocols for Chinese travelers entering the borders. Though China has called out these policies as “unscientific,” the countries stated that the restrictions are in place because China lacks transparency in its reports of the disease’s outbreak.
In South Korea, Chinese travelers need to undergo a PCR test upon arrival. From Jan. 5, arrivals can submit a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before departure or a negative rapid antigen test no more than 24 hours before departure.
According to disease control authorities, the majority of COVID inflow from overseas has been from China.
Of the 460 confirmed cases of overseas inflow last week, 142 people— about 31 percent— were from China.
— Cho Kyu Hong, Health Minister
The runaway COVID carrier has stirred quite a controversy in the country as the media questioned the efficiency of the authorities in controlling the infected inbound travelers. Kim Ju Young called the incident a “disgrace” and promised to dispatch more personnel to make sure this incident doesn’t repeat.