South Korea will deny entry to foreign nationals who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has seen over 540 COVID-19 cases so far, officials here said Wednesday as passengers began to disembark in Japan.
“There are possibilities that the passengers could enter Korea (en route to their home countries). In such cases, foreign nationals will be denied entry here. Korean nationals will be required to observe self-quarantine,” said Noh Hong-in, an official at the government’s central response team, in a regular briefing.
The entry ban, however, can be implemented only after the authorities secure the list of passengers from Japan, the official said.
On Wednesday, hundreds of passengers began disembarking from the quarantined cruise ship docked off Yokohama Port, as their 14-day quarantine ended.
Only those who test negative for the virus and do not show symptoms are allowed to leave the ship. The disembarkation process is expected to continue until Friday. At least 542 people aboard the ship have been confirmed to have the virus so far, the biggest cluster outside China.
Several countries, including the US and Korea, have already evacuated their citizens from the ship.
Korea brought back seven people -- six Korean nationals and a Japanese spouse -- via a government-owned plane. The Air Force VCN-235 arrived at Gimpo Airport at 6:27 a.m. Wednesday after departing from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport at 2:33 a.m.
Upon arrival, the evacuees went through an hourlong health examination and were transported to a medical facility at the quarantine office of Incheon Airport, where they will remain under quarantine for two weeks. None showed respiratory symptoms, according to Seoul authorities.
The Korean evacuees were among 14 Korean nationals stranded on the Diamond Princess since Feb. 3, along with 3,700 people, after a former passenger was diagnosed with the new coronavirus. The remaining Koreans indicated that they wanted to stay in Japan, largely due to their residence status tied to the country.
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com