The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) said the new coronavirus testing volume has increased more than three folds as the government expanded test criteria and centers for the new coronavirus on Friday.
According to the ministry, tests conducted on Friday have increased by more than three times compared to those on Thursday.
On Friday, the government added 46 eligible medical institutions that can test the new coronavirus, while widening the test criteria to any patients who have a fever or respiratory symptoms within 14 days after visiting China or any other countries where confirmed cases have occurred.
"Currently, about 3,000 tests can be performed per day, but our goal is to conduct at least 5,000 tests per day," Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Gang-lip said during a briefing Saturday. "Please cooperate with clinicians so that they can conduct a test at their discretion."
Kim, however, stressed that there is a limit to the number of tests a day as the new coronavirus test requires strict criteria including gene amplification test equipment and skilled workers. Thus, priority will be placed on people who had been abroad recently and those with acute signs of illness.
Kim noted that accurate counting of the tests was difficult due to a large number of inspections in progress.
As the ministry plans to implement an inspection and aggregation system from Monday, we will have a more accurate number of tests conducted from next week, he added.
The government also said it would provide 1.23 million won ($1,030) per month for a four-person household with a family member in quarantine.
"The monthly living expenses allowance will be provided to anyone who has been in quarantine for more than 14 days. Foreigners will be also eligible for the support," Kim said. "The decision was made to compensate people for cooperating with the ongoing effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus."
The compensation rules will also apply to those in self-quarantine, Kim added.
If a family has less than four members, the ministry will adjust the total amount to reflect the size of the family and the quarantine period.
More specifically, people living by themselves will receive 454,900 won if they are quarantined for two weeks, and a family with two members will receive 774,700 won. A household with three members will receive about 1 million won, and families with five members will receive 1.45 million won. Families that exceed five members will receive the five-person household compensation.
However, the ministry will not provide compensation for workers who were on paid leave.
Those who are eligible to receive the compensation can start applying from Feb. 17 at local community centers.
The government will also repay business owners who had given paid leave to employees through the National Pension Service.
Seoul also noted that it would keep a closer eye on the virus's development as China's Lunar New Year holiday will officially end Sunday.
"As the Chinese Lunar New Year officially ends Sunday due to the extension of the holiday to contain the disease, there will be an increase in people coming back from China," said Jung Eun-kyeong, the director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Therefore, we will concentrate our quarantine efforts on monitoring everyone who arrives from China for the next one to two weeks."
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