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South Korea to revise rules on mandatory Covid-19 testing of foreigners

   March 20, 2021 3:06 AM
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by Paula Hancocks and Gawon Bae, CNN

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Covid-19 South Korea
Seoul, South Korea (CNN)Officials in the South Korean capital Seoul have reversed course on controversial plans to require all foreign workers to undergo Covid-19 testing after facing a torrent of criticism from diplomatic missions and international businesses.

The ruling, which came into force Wednesday, required all foreign workers in the capital to undergo coronavirus screenings, or face fines of up to 2 million Korean won ($1,775).

In a news release from the city government Friday, Seoul City officials said they would now only recommend foreign workers employed at high-risk businesses with dense and unventilated working environments undergo testing by March 31. The city also recommended South Korean nationals working at the same businesses get tested, the release added.

The policy has already been brought into place in neighboring Gyeonggi province as well as several other cities and provinces. It is not clear whether other provinces will follow Seoul's steps.

The policy had been labeled by many as xenophobic and discriminatory, with ruling party lawmaker Lee Sang-min describing it as an "unjust racist action against foreigners" and warning that it would result in "international embarrassment."

Seoul City officials had previously denied the policy was discriminatory, pointing to statistics showing the proportion of foreign residents among confirmed Covid-19 cases in the capital had jumped from 2.2% last year to 6.3% this month. "I ask for people's participation and think of this as a measure to protect the individual's safety rather than discrimination," said Seoul City official Song Eun-cheol earlier Friday.

The ruling had threatened to create something of a diplomatic incident, however, with a growing list of nations, including the United States and United Kingdom, voicing their opposition.

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