South Korea on Wednesday implemented a 14-day mandatory isolation procedure for all visitors from abroad, stepping up efforts to limit the influx of novel coronavirus infections.
From midnight Tuesday, Koreans and foreign nationals arriving from aoverseas are required to enter 14 days isolation at home or in government facilities regardless of having symptoms linked to COVID-19. Those staying in government facilities are required to cover the daily cost of about 100,000 won ($81).
While the arriving passengers are required to use their own vehicles to reach their destinations, a number of local governments have rolled out special buses and other vehicles to transport residents. On Wednesday, about 7,700 people were expected to arrive in Korea, including 309 Koreans arriving from Italy aboard a chartered flight.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun again warned of stern legal measures against those violating isolation rules. Speaking at the government response team meeting, Chung said that isolation measures must be strictly enforced despite the expected burden on local governments.
“Self-isolation is an enforced legal measure for protecting the community,” Chung said, saying that there have been cases of Koreans returning to the country violating regulations.
“Violations will be met with zero-tolerance, and (will be) reported or deported,” Chung said, calling on concerned government agencies to sufficiently inform those entering the country.
With more overseas Koreans returning to the country, there has been an increase in the number of imported COVID-19 cases. About 5 percent of Korea’s COVID-19 patients are those who contracted the disease outside of the country. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Korean nationals account for over 90 percent of COVID-19 cases where infection occurred overseas.
In addition, a number of cases of COVID-19 patients violating self-isolation rules are in the spotlight, with some local governments choosing to take legal measures against the violators.
In response, authorities have begun to crack down on violators. Police have so far apprehended 45 individuals who violated self-isolation rules. Of the 45, six were transferred to prosecutors with recommendations for indictment.
Under revised regulations, those violating isolation measures imposed during an outbreak of infectious disease can be punished by up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of less than 10 million won.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases and COVID-19 deaths in Korea came to 9,887 and 165, respectively, at midnight Tuesday, rising by 101 and three from the previous day.
Of the 101 new cases, 36 were from overseas – 33 Korean nationals and three foreign nationals – with the majority having come from Europe and the Americas.
The outbreak in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, which account for more than 80 percent of Korea’s COVID-19 cases, appears to have been mostly brought under control, with the number of cases in the two areas seeing an increase of 22.
In contrast, new cases in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province account for a large part of the number, with 47 of Tuesday’s 101 being located in the area.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com