The public health authorities said they would enhance the prevention and control of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis among foreigners from Wednesday.
The nation will require mandatory TB testing for foreigners entering from an additional 16 countries with a high burden of multidrug-resistant TB designated by the World Health Organization when they apply for a long-term visa before entry.
The new rule will increase the number of countries that need TB screening for a long-term visa from 19 to 35. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said it would collaborate with the Justice Ministry to apply the new guidelines from April to prevent better and control foreigners’ multidrug-resistant TB.
The number of new TB cases among foreigners has steadily declined for three years since 2016, thanks to the mandatory TB screening for foreigners from countries with a high risk of TB infection applying for a long-term visa. However, the number of multidrug-resistant TB patients among foreigners increased to 107 in 2019, up 21.6 percent from a year earlier, prompting calls to strengthen the disease control.
Korea designates a high-risk TB country if a country has more than 50 TB patients per 100,000 people and the country produces many long-term visa holders for work and study in Korea or a country designated by the WHO as a nation with a high burden of multidrug-resistant TB.
The newly added 16 countries for mandatory multidrug-resistant TB screening are Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Republic of Moldova, Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Peru, and Papua New Guinea.
The KCDC predicted that the enhanced rule would actively block the influx of TB and multidrug-resistant TB from abroad by restricting long-term visas until the completion of treatment for TB patients in 35 countries with high risk of TB.
The authorities also decided to limit a long-term permit if a foreigner from a high TB risk country on a short-term stay is confirmed with multidrug-resistant TB while changing the visa to a long-term one.
To do so, the health authorities will make a drug resistance test obligatory for foreigners with TB symptoms to detect multidrug-resistant TB early.
Foreigners with multidrug-resistant TB from high-risk countries will be hospitalized until the contagiousness disappears and sent back to their home countries.
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