Before I get started, no, I did not travel to South Korea. My dad had an emergency and had to visit the US to take care of some things and I’m logging this from what he told me. He purposefully stayed in the US longer so he would have plenty of time to quarantine and to take care of the issue. So here are his thoughts.
He flew on Korean Air and the plane was practically empty and he was able to have the whole row to himself. Everyone on board had to wear a mask at all time, including the flight attendants. The flight attendants took it a step further and even wore gloves.
Once he arrived, he went through security normally, no added check points for quarantine. He gathered his bags and left the airport. He said that majority of the people at the airport were wearing masks but there were some who had it down to their neck and/or was only covering their mouth.
After getting out of the airport, he headed straight to a place he was going to quarantine in. My brother and his wife stocked the fridge with food for him to last for 2 weeks so he wouldn’t have to go out. However, this was all optional in the US. My dad quarantined himself for the safety of him AND others.
My brother had booked him a drive-thru test 5 days into his quarantine. So on day 5, my father drove to the drive-thru testing center and got tested. It was self administered test (throat swab test). He stayed in the car while taking the sample and only opened his window to drop off the sample. Afterwards, he drove straight back home and wait for the results.
The results came back after 2 days and he tested negative. After hearing the result, my dad started to slowly go out, little by little. He went for small walks around the neighborhood but did it super early in the morning, around 5am or later in the evening, around 8pm. He did his best to avoid people during his walks. He did meet with a friend to have lunch but he told me he only took his mask off to eat and they had outdoor seating.
He did all of this even though it was optional. It is recommended but nobody, not even the government, was enforcing this.
Now, he is back in South Korea and the way the government is handling the quarantine is vastly different and they are very seriously about it.
First, when he arrived in Incheon, they took the screening very seriously. He had to answer questionnaires, check his temperature, and they made him download an app for checking on his whereabouts during quarantine. Dad said the process took a long time but was glad that they are doing a great job.
He had a connecting flight from Incheon but the connecting flight was cancelled and everyone who had a connecting had to go to the Gwangmyeong train station (about an 40 minutes away). The airport gathered all the people going in the same direction and put them on the bus to the train station. This was only for the passengers coming from international destination and they were very organized.
Once at the train station, they were screened again before getting on the train. The staff doing the training was very professional, fully covered up, and answered all the questions from the passengers. Before getting on the train, they were told which compartment and which seat to use. The train compartment for passengers from the flight used was separate from the one the others. So they even had some quarantining on the train!
He finally arrived in his hometown and was screened again before leaving the train station. He couldn’t take the regular taxi and had to take a special taxi called Duribal Taxi. These taxis are meant for disabled people but during quarantine, they were also used for transporting quarantining people. Again, another separation.
He couldn’t go home because he needed to quarantine separately from my mom. So he stayed in a nearby rental. Mom filled the fridge this time and they were able to talk through the door. Once he arrived at his safe house, he received a call from the local government office to talk about the quarantine process. So even before the day was over, he had 3 screening and 1 official phone call and this was on a Saturday! So they were not lessening up just because it was a weekend.
On Monday, a government official came by his safe house, fully covered, just like the staff above, and dropped off some goodies and again, explained how to quarantine and answered my dad’s questions. The goodies were masks, hand sanitizer gel, sanitizing spray, thermometer, and trash bags. ALL FREE! To make sure that people were actually staying safe, even at home.
One thing that amazed me was the trash. My dad was told that the trash from people who are in quarantine are collected separately so the trash collectors are safe. WHAT!!! Another separation. This was amazing.
My dad is still in quarantine but he cannot leave the house for 14 days. The app he downloaded will track him when he leaves. The app will also tell users if there are COVID positive people nearby and where they have been. This makes sure that people are able to track down the spread and the government can do their best to contain it. They really were trying to keep all the bases covered and I truly applaud the South Korean government for doing their best.
While it is not safe to travel abroad at this time, if you really need to travel, please be cautious and keep clean! Wear a mask and gloves and carry hand sanitizer, just in case.