South Korea reported 91 new novel coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the total infections to 9,332, as the government began to impose mandatory 14-day self-quarantine on arrivals from the US to contain imported cases from abroad.
Under the new quarantine measures, incoming travelers from the US -- citizens and foreign nationals with long-tern visas -- must self-quarantine at their homes or designated facilities for 14 days. They are required to get tested for the virus only if they develop symptoms.
Those who have symptoms upon their arrival from the US -- regardless of nationality -- are tested at the airport’s quarantine facilities -- if tested positive, they are transferred to hospitals or treatment centers depending on the severity of their symptoms.
Tougher quarantine rules have been applied to those flying from Europe. Virus testing is mandatory for everyone flying from Europe, regardless of whether they have symptoms. They are also required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
On Thursday, 2,586 people arrived from the US, with 80 percent of them being Korean citizens.
A total of 1,261 people entered the country from Europe on Thursday, with 91 percent of them being citizens, according to the data. Of those who arrived from Europe, 121 people had symptoms.
To speed up testing, 16 open-air walk-through testing booths -- which has a capacity of testing up to 2,000 people daily -- began to operate at the Incheon International Airport on Thursday.
At the walk-through testing booths, foreigners, who arrive from Europe and do not have symptoms, are tested for the virus. Foreign travelers arriving from the US for a short-term stay here are also tested. Authorities are reviewing whether to expand the scope of those subjected to testing at the facilities.
An entry ban on foreigners is not being considered as most of those entering the country from Europe and the US are Korean citizens, health authorities said Friday.
To further toughen quarantine measures, those who have fever over 37.5 will be denied boarding flights bound for Korea and get a refund for their flight tickets. The rules will apply to all flights arriving in Korea from midnight Monday, according to the authorities.
So far, 4,528 patients of COVID-19, or 48.5 percent, in Korea have made full recoveries since the country reported the first case on Jan. 20, with 384 more people having been discharged from isolation Thursday.
Of the new cases, 19 cases involved travelers arriving in Korea from abroad -- all Korean citizens. (11 from Europe, seven from the Americas and one from Asia) Of them, 13 cases were identified during airport quarantine screening, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Korea has seen a growing number of cases imported from abroad in recent weeks. This week alone, 100 cases came from Europe, 55 from the Americas and 10 from Asia.
Of all cases, 309 cases were imported from abroad, with about 10 percent involving foreigners.
Of the new cases reported Friday, 34 cases were confirmed in Daegu, the city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak here, 12 in Seoul, 11 in Gyeonggi Province and nine in North Gyeongsang Province. The cases in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province represent 69.82 percent and 13.75 percent, respectively, of the country’s total.
The total death toll rose by eight to 139, with the overall fatality rate so far standing at 1.49 percent, according to the KCDC. The death rate is 6.51 percent for those in their 70s and 15.19 percent for those in their 80s.
So far, a total of 376,961 people have been tested for the virus, with 352,410 testing negative. Some 15,219 of them are still awaiting test results.
By Ock Hyun-ju (email@example.com