South Korea to end pre-departure COVID test requirement for overseas travellers

Workers wearing protective gear check passengers from overseas as they arrive at the Incheon International Airport, in Incheon
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By Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will from Saturday no longer require travellers to the country to test for COVID-19 before departure, although they will still need to take a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival.

The latest relaxing of rules comes amid an easing in case numbers with daily COVID infections hovering around 100,000 in recent weeks compared with more than 180,000 in mid-August.

"The weekly number of infections have declined for the first time in nine weeks and the virus is showing signs of slowing down," Lee Ki-il, the country's second vice health minister, told reporters.

Wednesday's announcement, which follows steps by Japan and other countries to scrap the pre-departure test requirement, comes as South Korea is set to mark the country's thanksgiving holiday of Chuseok next week.

The number of infections could increase following the holiday season but the figures are likely to remain within control, said Peck Kyong-ran, head of the Korea Disease control and Prevention Agency.

South Korea still has an indoor face-mask mandate and requires those testing positive for COVID to isolate for seven days.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)