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Wuhan virus: Contacts failing to observe self-quarantine to be fined

Korea escalates response to fast-spreading epidemic

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo (Ministry of Health and Welfare)
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo (Ministry of Health and Welfare)

The government said on Monday all contacts of Wuhan coronavirus cases will be required to undergo 14 days of self-quarantine starting Tuesday. Those failing to observe the quarantine order will be subject to a fine of up to 3 million won ($2,500), as per the laws on infectious disease control and prevention.

Announcing the expanded response, the Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said during a meeting convened by the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday that preemptive measures were necessary as it is possible for the virus to be transmitted by patients showing mild or no symptoms.

The self-quarantine rule will apply to those who have had any degree of contact with patients of the virus. People placed under self-quarantine will be monitored by district officials and will be provided compensation and support by the government.

The new measures follow a first known secondary infection reported last week.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Korean man, 55, became the sixth patient of the virus on Thursday, eight days after he dined with the third patient on Jan. 22 at a restaurant in Gangnam, Seoul.

When the third patient, a 54-year-old Korean man who arrived from Wuhan on Jan. 20, was found to have been infected a few days later on Jan. 26, health authorities placed the 55-year-old man under active surveillance instead of a quarantine. The decision led to him transmitting the virus to two of his close contacts, his wife and son.

Korean Medical Association guidelines issued Sunday says patients with suspected infections are advised to stay in an isolated place with good ventilation, and to keep at least 1-meter distance from others.

Visits and outside contact should be minimized, if not avoided, the doctors’ association said.

In addition to the quarantine measure, passengers arriving from all regions of China will be tested for infection of the virus if they appear to have respiratory symptoms. Previously, the mandatory screening was only implemented for visitors from Wuhan and Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Korea confirmed its latest and 15th confirmed patient on Sunday morning. The total number of people who have come into contact with the 15 infected individuals is 683, 414 of whom are with the virus symptoms. Of the symptomatic 414, 87 are currently under quarantine.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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