As the new coronavirus crisis shifts to a long-term task, Korea has set about to minimize economic impacts while strengthening quarantine on all arrivals from abroad.
Public health authorities detected 78 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 9,661. Six more people died of COVID-19, pushing up the total to 159. Hospitals cured and discharged an additional 195 people to raise the total to 5,228, exceeding the 4,433 patients under treatment.
So far, the nation tested 395,194 people since it found the first confirmed case on Jan. 20 and produced results for 381,663, with the other 13,531 being analyzed.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Sunday that the government would “allow not a crack in a hole,” while commenting on its decision to apply mandatory two-week self-quarantine on all entrants from abroad from Wednesday. "This is a time when screening at the airport, checkups on travel routes of foreign arrivals, and self-quarantine became more important than ever before,” he said.
Chung emphasized that visitors from abroad should not use the same transportations with the general public, telling localities to provide lodging facilities for isolation and ways to transport the visitors.
The prime minister also told local officials to focus on managing Korean international students so that they should follow measures and recommendations thoroughly.
The obligatory self-isolation of all new arrivals came 57 days after the government applied a similar measure on travelers from Wuhan, China. Critics of the government say Seoul needs to ban all entrants from abroad, as China has done and Japan is likely to do so soon. However, healthcare officials here are opposed to the complete entry ban, questioning the move’s practical use in containing the COVID-19 spread.
However, private experts stressed that the measure would be effective only when three factors – entrants’ cooperation, securing of COVID-19 managers and preparation of facilities for quarantine – are complete.
They kept advising the government to bar all entry from overseas to make time for preparation if the nation is not yet ready to complete the three measures.
The nation is facing an urgent matter to set up quarantine facilities to accommodate foreigners without residence. The government estimated about 2,000 foreigners who are coming into the country per day.
"The key lies in how well the citizens adhere to self-quarantine measures and how well the government secures facilities to isolate foreigners from the public," said Professor Um Joong-sik of Gachon University Gil Medical Center. "It would be worth considering banning foreigners from entering Korea for a few days to prepare quarantine facilities."
Meanwhile, in response to mounting outcries to help ease the financial difficulties of the vulnerable class, the government also decided to provide an emergency disaster support money of a maximum 1 million won ($816) to 70 percent of all households or 14 million four-member families, as early as in May. The decision came at the third meeting of the emergency economic council chaired by President Moon Jae-in at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday.
The government is also likely to put off the opening of the school year once again beyond the scheduled April 6, officials said. Education Ministry officials are discussing options, such as replacing it with internet lectures beginning with high schools.
The government has postponed the school's opening three times. According to the education community, municipal and provincial offices of education are sending COVID-19 response guidelines to front-line teachers almost every day.
However, many teachers are facing problems with the unprecedented situation of teaching amid the pandemic outbreak because unexpected events can always happen regardless of how detailed the instructions are.
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