South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ruled out a ban of foreign nationals who had been to China as Seoul tried to contain a massive outbreak of the deadly coronavirus on Friday. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 28 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in may be concerned about Chinese retaliation if Seoul goes ahead with a decision to ban most foreign nationals traveling from China in response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a local press report.
Yonhap reported Friday the South Korean leader told representatives of opposition and ruling parties South Korea relies on China for pharmaceuticals. Any move toward health-related travel bans could provoke China, Moon said.
"We are currently importing medicines, mainly from China," the president said. A travel ban "could adversely affect this sector."
Moon also said banning Chinese nationals traveling from China could "make South Korea be the target of a travel ban of other countries."
Restrictions against travelers from South Korea are in place in more than 50 countries, however. On Friday, Moon did not address past South Korean petitions for a ban, including from the Korean Medical Association, which has called on the government seven times for restrictions similar to policies in place in Taiwan, Australia and the United States.
Taiwan, situated only 81 miles from the coast of China, has reported 34 cases of the coronavirus, which transmits rapidly and sometimes asymptomatically. South Korea's infections climbed to more than 2,337 on Friday.
Hwang Kyo-ahn, leader of the conservative United Future Party, the main opposition, told Moon it might not be too late to implement a ban to prevent a further increase in cases of COVID-19.
"We requested a ban of entrants from China from the beginning," Hwang told Moon. "We must ban entries now."
Moon dismissed the idea and said it would "not be effective."
The South Korean president instead suggested the mass infections among members of local religious group Shincheonji are a serious matter. The epidemic in the central South Korean city of Daegu must be contained, Moon said.
South Korea began to report the second highest number of infections in the world this week. On Friday, local authorities reported the nation's first case of "reinfection," Newsis reported.
South Korea's patient No. 25, a South Korean woman in her 70s, tested positive for the virus after being discharged on Saturday, according to the report.