Extra session set for bills on tackling outbreak

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Extra session set for bills on tackling outbreak

Political parties agreed Monday to hold an extra parliamentary session for February to handle key bills, including a proposal to revise the quarantine act to better tackle the outbreak of a new coronavirus.

Rival parties agreed to open a 30-day extraordinary session this month to pass hundreds of bills linked to people’s lives. Details will later be decided through consultations.

One of the most notable of the 244 pending bills is a proposal to revise the quarantine act to beef up the country’s capability to cope with new contagious diseases. The bill, submitted by Rep. Ki Dong-min of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) in October 2019, calls for permitting the government to flexibly designate areas needed for quarantine based on the risk posed by an infectious disease.

The DP wants to pass the bill this month as concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus are mounting.

Korea has reported 15 cases of the virus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province. Seoul decided Sunday to bar foreign travelers who have been in China’s Hubei Province in the past two weeks from entering the country.

“We need to back up the government’s all-out efforts to curb the spread of the virus. The modernization of the quarantine process is necessary,” Rep. Ki said. The bill is pending at the parliamentary judiciary committee.

Rep. Yoon Hu-duk, vice senior floor leader of the DP, called for bipartisan efforts to tackle the coronavirus.

“I proposed that political parties delay or refrain from face-to-face campaigning [for the April 15 parliamentary elections]. I also offered to create a parliamentary special panel to cope with the coronavirus,” Yoon told reporters.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) wants to combine Rep. Ki’s bill with measures submitted by one of its lawmakers when discussing legislation on quarantine.

Last month, Rep. Won Yoo-chul of the LKP proposed a bill to ban entry by people arriving from countries where contagious diseases originate. He also submitted a bill to provide free face masks to children and those aged over 65.

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