An Asiana Airlines flight attendant serves inflight meals / Courtesy of Asiana Airlines
By Kim Hyun-bin
The government has strengthened social distancing measures by making it mandatory for all inbound travelers to be placed under quarantine for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status. Experts believe the measures will immediately impact the domestic airline and tourism industries.
According to the health authorities Friday, all travelers from overseas countries are subject to the mandatory quarantine, which will remain effective through Dec. 16.
Industries such as aviation, travel and oil refining, which were expecting a slight but continued recovery through the end of the year, are said to be in a state of emergency due to the emergence of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Last week, the airline industry announced plans to launch new routes and increase the number of existing flights to prepare for an expected surge in travelers. But as concerns over Omicron grew, these moves have been halted.
Korean Air will continue to operate 39 international routes that were confirmed last month and is monitoring the situation.
Asiana Airlines has decided to reduce the number of flights on its Incheon-Osaka route, which currently stands at five a week.
Low-cost carriers (LCCs) are in a worse situation.
“There was slight hope of a possible recovery of the airline industry with the country initiating Living with COVID-19 by easing quarantine measures and the travel bubbles inked with other countries, but the Omicron variant is expected to take a toll,” an airline official said. “At this time, there are no changes to our December flight schedule, but strengthened quarantine measures are likely to have an impact on the industry.”
Tour agencies have been inundated with last-minute cancellation requests soon after the 10-day quarantine measures were announced. But the government decided to exempt the mandatory quarantine period for only Saipan and Singapore, which signed “travel bubble” pacts with Korea, letting people from those countries to visit the other more freely.
The government signed a travel bubble agreement with Saipan in June and Singapore in October of this year.
Some industry officials believe the Omicron variant will have less of an impact than the Delta variant as many people have been vaccinated and are starting to get their booster shots. Officials in the pharmaceutical industry expect a new vaccine for possible use against the Omicron variant to be released within the first half of next year.Internet Explorer Channel Network