Korea reported 53 new cases of the new coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the nation's total patients to 10,384, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The nation has continued to see the number of newly confirmed patients around 50 for three consecutive days since Monday. However, it saw eight more people died of COVID-19, which makes the accumulative death toll of 200. Eighty-two more patients were fully recovered and discharged from hospitals, pushing the total of cured cases to 6,776, as of midnight Tuesday, according to the KCDC.
Amid the steady finding of infected cases among new arrivals, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the nation would temporarily suspend visa immunity and visa-free entry on people from countries that ban Koreans from entering them. Korea will also expand the restriction on foreign arrivals for unnecessary purposes, he added.
"The government will discuss more aggressive countermeasures to prevent people infected by COVID-19 patients from entering the nation," Prime Minister Chung said. "Related ministries should quickly prepare plans to implement these steps, according to the result of the discussion."
The government's tightened immigration measures followed the continued inflows of COVID-19 patients amid the pandemic’s spread all over the world as well as sporadic cluster infections in local communities, health officials said.
Most of the foreign arrivals are Koreans, such as international students, but the nation continues to see more than 5,000 people entering from abroad, which has been imposing a burden on healthcare workers and facilities.
Prime Minister Chung pointed out that those who violated the self-quarantine measure have raised significant concern about safety among the public while causing difficulties in preventing infections.
He stressed that local officials should immediately accuse the violators and conduct random inspections more often than now.
As the nation is struggling to prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading, some people are calling for the government to force self-quarantined people to wear an electronic bracelet. Others, however, are opposing the obligatory wearing of a wristband, saying it violates human rights and can cause suspected patients to avoid tests.
The government failed to reach an agreement on whether and how to obligate self-quarantined people to wear electronic wristbands, as of Tuesday.
"The health authorities are considering wristbands as one of various means to prevent the self-isolated people from violating the measure," said Yoon Tae-ho, chief coordinator at the interagency headquarters to cope with COVID-19.
The electronic wristband method is an enhanced measure of the self-quarantine application. It interlocks with the isolated person's smartphone and sends an alarm to the monitoring official when the person stays 10 meters away from the smartphone. The official then visits to check whether the person broke away from the place.
Meanwhile, Korea saw its first cases of fully recovered patients by treating with the plasma from already recovered COVID-19 patients, on Tuesday.
The plasma treatment has been used to cure infectious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Ebola virus, and avian influenza.
A research team, led by Professor Choi Jun-yong of Severance Hospital's Infectious Disease Division, confirmed the treatment’s effect by injecting complete blood plasma from two severe COVID-19 patients. The two patients were transfused of plasma from the recovered patients, and their symptoms were alleviated. They eventually left the hospitals fully recovered, hospital officials said.
As of midnight Tuesday, Korea tested 486,003 people for COVID-19 infection and got the result of 468,145 tests. Among the tested people, 457,761 have shown a negative response, and 17,858 suspected patients are waiting for their test results.
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