Seoul targets ferry operators in coronavirus fight

Pyeongtaek Port, South Korea. Credit: Export Gateway

The South Korean government is targeting South Korea-China ferry routes in its fight against the coronavirus that has nearly spread worldwide from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) has ordered all 14 companies operating South Korea-China ferry services to monitor passengers and crew for pneumonia-like symptoms. Operators have been told to set aside space on their vessels to quarantine passengers and crew displaying these symptoms.

They have also been told to place hand sanitisers in their ferries, while crew members must be advised to wear face masks to minimise the risk of infection.

Suspected cases must be reported, and MOF has established a crisis response team after South Korea raised its national infectious disease crisis alert on 27 January 2020.

Seventeen ferries supply 16 South Korea-China routes, carrying about 2 million passengers and about 500,000 TEU of containers a year. Following the Lunar New Year holidays, such services resumed with the ferry Oriental Pearl VIII arriving in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on 28 January 2020.

Coronavirus surfaced in Wuhan in December 2019 and has spread beyond China, with cases reported in Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States.

More than 7,000 infections have been confirmed in China alone, and at least 170 people have died.