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U.S. State Department alert for Japan and the Republic of Korea on COVID-19 outbreak

US Embassies in Tokyo and Seoul warn Americans

U.S. State Department alert for Japan and the Republic of Korea on COVID-19 outbreak

Exercise Increased Caution due to an outbreak of COVID-19 (also known as the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2).   

This is the message on the U.S. EMbassy Website in Seoul, Korea, after the Republic of Korea now reported 602 cases of Coronavirus.

A similar message was posted to the US. Embassy Website in Tokyo after 135 cases were reported.

The threat level for South Korea and Japan was increased to level 2

A novel (new) coronavirus disease, recently designated as COVID-19, is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness.   The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in China in December 2019.  On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.    

Many cases of COVID-19 have been associated with travel to or from mainland China or close contact with a travel-related case, but sustained community spread has been reported in South Korea.  Sustained community spread means that people in South Korea have been infected with the virus, but how or where they became infected is not known, and the spread is ongoing. The CDC has issued a Level 2 Travel Health Notice.

Because older adults and those with chronic medical conditions may be at higher risk for severe disease, people in these groups should discuss travel with a healthcare provider and consider postponing nonessential travel.

Travelers should review and follow the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus if they decide to travel to South Korea.   If suspected to have Coronavirus in South Korea, you may face travel delays, quarantine, and extremely expensive medical costs.  


If you travel to South Korea, you should:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Discuss travel to South Korea with your healthcare provider. Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for South Korea.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist
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