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COVID-19 tests at doctors’ discretion regardless of symptoms, travel records


Starting Thursday, anyone can be tested for COVID-19 at doctors’ discretion, regardless of his or her overseas travel record.

People who have not traveled to China can be tested for the coronavirus if they have been in contact with someone who has traveled to the country and show respiratory symptoms or fever, according to the latest guidelines from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those who have been admitted to hospitals for pneumonia of unknown cause must be isolated in single rooms or negative pressure wards, and be tested for the coronavirus.

COVID-19 testing has been conducted at doctors’ discretion since Feb. 7, but the definition of suspected cases has been widened and specified in the sixth edition of the KCDC guidelines on tackling the virus, which are being applied from Thursday.

Examples of suspected cases include pneumonia patients who do not require in-patient treatment and those who have contacted people who showed respiratory symptoms or fever within 14 days of traveling to countries that have confirmed cases.

The guidelines also made clear that Hong Kong and Macao are included when discussing travel records to China.

Contact with confirmed cases and anyone who has traveled to China is considered a major risk factor, as the new coronavirus spreads easily in the early stage of infection when there are no symptoms.

The criteria for releasing contacts of confirmed cases from the 14-day quarantine has also been toughened.

Even if they do not show any symptoms, close contacts of confirmed cases, such as health care providers, caregivers and people who live with confirmed cases, are required to be tested for COVID-19 on their 13th day of isolation. Other cases where testing is deemed necessary by an epidemiologist will also be tested.

The contacts can be released from quarantine only if they test negative on the 13th day and show no symptoms.

By Kim So-hyun (