The 14-day quarantine begins at midnight after your arrival and ends at midnight after the 14 days have passed, so in essence, it is really a 15-day quarantine, considering you can’t go anywhere else but the district health center and your quarantine location.
Although we could have chosen the government facility to quarantine, we decided to stay at my husband’s old apartment, which happened to be available upon our arrival. The government rents out hotels around the country to quarantine foreigners who do not have a home in Korea. The selection varies from a five-star luxury hotel (e.g. the Grand Hyatt) to a two-star modest hotel. Once you pay your KRW120,000 (approx. USD 101.00) per person per night, the type of hotel you get is just pure luck. But you will get room service food delivered to your door, left in front of your door, and there is no housekeeping.
So we decided to stay at our apartment. We forgot just exactly how small it was until we arrived with our 7 suitcases in all different sizes! The studio apartment did not feel so small when my husband was living there, I guess because all he did was come home, sleep, shower, and leave. But now that we have to stay for fourteen days straight without going anywhere, I felt like the walls were moving into me.
The day after our arrival, Quarantine Day-1, our social worker called us to instruct us on what to do in the next 14 days. Basically, we are not to leave the door, not even to take out any trash until midnight of the 14th day from Day-1. He said he will visit us and drop off some quarantine items for us in the next couple of days.
The next couple of days felt like eternity. We didn’t have any food in the apartment, no television, and the tiny apartment got even smaller no thanks to our 7 suitcases we had, which were supposed to last us until our next trip to the U.S. when we reunite with our stuff that we shipped from Bangkok.
They had us sign an acknowledgement that we received a letter stating our obligations during quarantine and that we agree to abide by such policy. The agreement letter also states that in the event that we deviate from the quarantine location during this period, then we may be required to wear a GPS bracelet. If in the case that we refuse to wear the bracelet, then we may be required to stay at a government quarantine facility. We had to take a photo of the signed form and send it to our social worker.
We had a “visit” from the social worker. He stayed outside of the door but made sure there were two people in the apartment. He then left a shopping bag full of necessary items in front of the door and left. In the shopping bag, there were masks, a digital thermometer, a bottle of anti-bacterial spray, and orange hazardous trash bags. They also provided some literature on how to stay clean and healthy.
The next day, we had a visit from a different social worker, who literally just dropped off a bag of instant foods, which we can eat during the quarantine.
For the 14 days, we were supposed to enter our symptoms, including temperature (using the digital thermometer provided by the government office), once at 9 AM and once at noon on the app that we downloaded at the airport upon arrival. The app also detected usage on the phone. If someone did not use the phone for more than 30 minutes, the government assumed that the person may have escaped the quarantine location, leaving the phone behind, and an alert would be sent to the local police department.
In addition to recording our symptoms to the app, we had to also call our social worker twice a day, once at 10 AM and another at 2 PM and provide him with our symptoms (e.g. temperature and whether there are coughs). There had been photos and CCTV footages of people who escaped quarantine on the main news, so we were quite intimidated to violate any of these protocols.
Stay tuned for what happened during the quarantine…