Korea reported about 100 new COVID-19 cases to push up the total to near 10,000 on Wednesday, public health authorities said.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it detected 101 new cases as of midnight Tuesday, raising the total to 9,887. Three more people died of COVID-19 to push up the total death toll to 165.
Fifty-two, or more than half of the 101 additional cases, occurred in the Seoul metro region, which also included the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and the western port city of Incheon. The continuous rise in the capital city was due to the constant increase in imported cases and cluster infections at churches.
On Wednesday, the nation began to oblige all entrants from abroad to isolate themselves for two weeks regardless of nationality, as COVID-19 infections spread to all corners of the globe in sequence. It was the expansion of the mandatory self-isolation, which had been limited to Europe and America, to the rest of the world.
Some critics of the government still call for Seoul to block all entrants from abroad, including even Korean nationals.
However, government officials continued to maintain that there is little evidence border closure is effective in containing the pandemic as well as pointed out that no countries have banned the entry of their own nationals.
|The quarantine process for foreign arrivals with and without the new coronavirus symptoms (Credit: Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention)|
Under the tightened guideline, all foreigners, even those without symptoms, must undergo diagnostic tests at the airport regardless of how long they plan to stay in Korea.
Newly arrived people who do not have a residence here will have to pay about 100,000 won ($82) a day for using public facilities. The government, however, shoulders costs for treating and curing new arrivals, including foreigners.
All people in isolation must install a mobile app that helps authorities monitor them in real-time and ensure they are observing the rules. They will also be able to report their conditions via the app.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, for the fourth time, that the government will apply the zero-tolerance principle to those who violate the mandatory self-quarantine for two weeks. “Self-isolation is legal enforcement to keep us safe from COVID-19, and the nation will not tolerate those who violate the policy,” Chung said.
He pointed out that people entering the nation from overseas may not know the situation here, and some Korean returnees are violating the self-isolation measure out of a sense of relief.
“The government can immediately find and track those who ignore self-isolation rule based on local positioning system,” the coronavirus czar said, asking related agencies and localities to explain and guide foreign entrants about detailed rules.
He added that locals who violate the rule would be prosecuted and foreigners, expelled. The National Police Agency said it was investigating 45 people who broke self-quarantine measures and indicted six.
From April 5, the government will toughen penalties on violators from the current fine of a maximum of 3 million won ($2458) to a year in jail and a fine of up to 10 million won.
In the face of community spread of the virus, Korea pushed back the opening of the new school year once again on Tuesday, replacing classes with online lectures on ninth and 12th graders. The opening of kindergartens and child care centers has been put off indefinitely.
As of midnight Tuesday, 159 more patients were fully cured and left hospitals, raising the number of recovered cases to 5,567. Currently, 4,155 are receiving treatment, down from 4,216 the previous day, the KCDC said.
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