Gov’t to strengthen quarantine measures

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Gov’t to strengthen quarantine measures


Travelers from Frankfurt wait in line for virus tests at Terminal 1 of Incheon International Airport on Monday. [NEWS1]

The Korean government is looking to strengthen quarantine measures to prevent imported coronavirus cases amid concerns over a series of infected travelers entering the country.

Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun ordered quarantine authorities to strengthen screening of passengers arriving from areas other than Europe, said Yoon Tae-ho, a senior Health Ministry official in a briefing Monday, adding that such measures will be announced in the “near future.”

Such measures could include mandatory coronavirus testing on all travelers coming from the United States, like the measures already implemented on people flying in from Europe.

“The United States and other regions are determined to not be as dangerous as Europe, but we are monitoring the situation,” said Yoon. “We are in the process of determining whether to strengthen quarantine measures for other countries beyond Europe.”

Quarantine authorities said Monday that 1,442 people traveling from Europe were tested for the coronavirus Sunday, the first day Korea implemented new measures requiring all passengers flying from the region to undergo testing.

Of these passengers, 152 showed symptoms of the virus upon arriving at Incheon International Airport, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). They were separated and quarantined at an airport facility and are awaiting test results. The rest of the passengers without symptoms were transported by buses to one of several temporary accommodations arranged by the government to be tested and were to wait up to 24 hours for results.

Those who test positive will be transported to government-designated hospitals or treatment facilities.

Even those who test negative will undergo 14 days of self-quarantine either at home or at a government-designated facility for long-term foreign visitors staying for over 90 days. There are exceptions for short-term foreign visitors who test negative to instead have a Korean health official check on their condition each day over phone for two weeks.

A group of 324 travelers from Europe without any symptoms entered the Institute of Justice in Jincheon County in North Chungcheong, which is being used as temporary accommodation, at around 1 a.m. Sunday. They will await test results for up to 24 hours and will be released to either self-quarantine at home or a government-designated accommodation.

On Sunday, there were a total of six flights - four direct flights from European cities including Frankfurt and London, and two layover flights.

The KCDC said that 92 percent of these travelers from Europe, or 1,221 people, were Korean and 103 were foreigners.

One-thousand two-hundred and ninety travelers who showed no symptoms were transported to one of seven temporary accommodations to be tested.

Seven people were already confirmed negative Sunday evening and returned home for self-quarantine.

There were five flights scheduled from Europe on Monday, and another 1,200 travelers expected to enter Korea.

The KCDC said that starting Wednesday, 40 walk-through virus testing sites will be installed at the Incheon International Airport to speed along the process and hopefully shorten the wait time for travelers.

A total of 9,798 travelers entered Korea Sunday, according to the KCDC.

Korea has seen a slowdown in new cases since last week, with the lowest increase in patients this month tallied Sunday at 64. In contrast, there has been growing concern over imported cases amid a global spike, especially in relation to travelers coming from the United States, another epicenter of the virus following Europe.

The KCDC said Monday that of the 64 new cases, 21.9 percent, or 14, were from abroad, namely from Europe and the United States. One new patient was a foreigner and the rest were Koreans.

The United States has over 35,000 cases across all 50 states, with a death toll of over 400 people as of Monday. New York has over 16,000 cases, but is also the state with the highest rate of testing.

The U.S. State Department last Thursday raised its global travel advisory to Level 4, its highest warning, recommending that U.S. citizens return home or remain where they are. The United States starting this Thursday is requiring a 14-day quarantine for travelers entering Hawaii. It already had similar measures in place for Guam.

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