Chinese man who fled Korean covid quarantine officers arrested, police say
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SEOUL – Police in South Korea on Thursday arrested a Chinese national who allegedly eluded quarantine officers this week after testing positive for the coronavirus upon arrival under new rules prompted by concerns about the severe outbreak in China.
Police in Incheon, a city of about 3 million people near Seoul that is home to the country’s main airport, confirmed to The Washington Post that they had arrested the traveler, ending a two-day manhunt. The search brought renewed attention to imported coronavirus cases, with nearly a third of short-term visitors arriving from China testing positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, according to South Korean health officials.
The visitor, a man in his 40s, tested positive at Incheon Airport and disappeared while waiting to be admitted to an isolation facility, Kim Joo-young, a health official, told a briefing on Wednesday. CCTV footage showed the man at a supermarket near the isolation hotel in Incheon, police said, according to the semi-official Yonhap news agency.
The traveler — who was placed on a wanted list — faces up to a year in prison or nearly $7,900 in fines if convicted, Kim said. Authorities did not name the suspect and it was not immediately clear if he had legal representation.
Arrivals from China are required from this week to take a coronavirus test upon arrival in South Korea, where people must self-isolate for seven days if they test positive. Starting Thursday, travelers from China must also provide a negative test result when they enter the country, said Choi Seung-ho, a spokesman for the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The United States will set a similar policy on Thursday.
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New restrictions have been issued by various countries in recent days after China suddenly said last week that it would begin reopening its long-closed borders on January 8. The announcement sent countries scrambling to prepare amid concerns that the coronavirus is rampant in China, although Beijing has played down the severity of the outbreak. The United States cited China’s lack of transparency over the outbreak as one of the reasons for its new restrictions, although independent health experts have questioned the usefulness of such controls.
China has criticized the measures by the United States and others as scientifically unfounded, warning other nations not to engage in “political manipulation” and threatening retaliatory countermeasures. China also requires negative coronavirus tests for foreign arrivals.
On Wednesday, almost one in three short-term visitors to South Korea from China – 103 out of 327 people – tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data compiled by the KDCA, the health agency. (Figures were not immediately available for Korean nationals and long-term residents coming from China.)
Those numbers are up slightly from the 26 percent of short-term travelers on flights from China to South Korea who tested positive from Monday to Wednesday. Italian health authorities reported that on a flight from China to Milan on December 26, half of the passengers tested positive.
Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Lily Kuo in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.