South Korea imposes new coronavirus travel restrictions, announces S$42 billion in business aid

Medical workers taking samples from foreign visitors in South Korea on March 27, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's government said on Wednesday (April 8) it will increase restrictions on people travelling from overseas to prevent new coronavirus infections, and announced new stimulus measures for exporters hit by the outbreak.

South Korea will temporarily suspend visa waivers for citizens of countries that have imposed travel bans on South Koreans, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said.

The change will affect travellers from at least 88 countries, including Australia, Canada, Russia and France, among others.

"While maintaining the foundation of our openness, we will strengthen travel restrictions under the principles of reciprocity," he said.

South Korea, which has been praised for its fast and effective response to the pandemic, has recorded a total of 10,384 coronavirus cases as of midnight Tuesday, with 200 deaths.

Mr Chung also said the government would impose restrictions on foreigners travelling to South Korea for "non-essential visits,"but did not elaborate.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the government would make an additional 36 trillion won (S$42.2 billion) worth of cheap loans available for exporters hit by the coronavirus.

Speaking at a policy meeting with economic chiefs, Mr Moon said businesses and domestic demand devastated by the coronavirus pandemic deserve additional support which the government plans to provide through policy banks, tax benefits and other measures.

Loan guarantees will be extended for exporters, while debt will be rolled over for small businesses. Fresh measures worth 17.7 trillion won will be rolled out to boost consumption and support domestic demand, he added, without giving details.

Wednesday's announcement adds to planned economic rescue package of 100 trillion won in late March designed to help companies and put a floor under crashing stocks and bond markets.

On Thursday the state-run Korea Health Industry Development Institute will host an online presentation for about 400 health officials and medical experts from 13 countries, including the United States, Mexico and Italy, the foreign ministry said.

The presentation will outline South Korea's coronavirus containment measures, which have won praise after the country reduced its rate of daily cases from more than 900 in late February to around 50 per day this week.

"We've been getting requests from many countries for us to share our know-how on the coronavirus response," a foreign ministry official said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.