SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- A foreign ministry official on Friday called China's banning of the entry of foreigners without prior notice "regrettable," saying South Korea is seeking to minimize the impact of the measure aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Chinese authorities announced Thursday that they would temporarily suspend the entry of foreigners even with visas or residence permits, starting Saturday, as part of stepped-up efforts to prevent any inflow of COVID-19 from abroad.
The move has escalated public calls for South Korea to respond in kind with its own measures to block all inbound travel from China. Seoul has banned the entry of people only from China's central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December.
"There was an abrupt announcement on that measure yesterday, and we think it is regrettable as we were not notified of that in advance," the senior official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
"We have this basic understanding that we need to make efforts toward minimizing any potential damage to our citizens from the measure," he added, noting the ministry has directed its diplomatic missions in China to analyze and report on the potential repercussions of the planned entry ban.
Asked about what measures the ministry would take in response to the entry ban, the official did not go into detail, saying the ministry is looking into various factors, including the fact that China has made the latest restrictive measure targeting all foreigners, not just South Koreans.