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S. Korea set to launch quick tracking system for virus cases


South Korea will launch a new cutting-edge system to track the movements of people infected with the novel coronavirus and their contacts more quickly, the land ministry said Wednesday, another powerful tool in the country's virus fight to help detect potential cases and quarantine COVID-19 patients.

The system, which is based on the so-called smart city data hub program and will be set in motion on Thursday, will enable health investigators to determine the routes of confirmed cases within 10 minutes, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said.

During the initial stage of the coronavirus outbreak in late January, it took more than a day to complete epidemiological investigations of confirmed patients.

The new system -- co-developed by the land ministry, the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) -- allows the data of confirmed COVID-19 patients to be immediately analyzed and provided to health investigators.

Previously, KCDC investigators had to request important data such as CCTV footage and the credit card transactions of confirmed patients from police investigators, leading to a delay in epidemiological investigation.

The land ministry said the Korean National Police Agency, the Credit Finance Association, South Korea's three mobile carriers and 22 credit card issuers have joined forces to create the quick tracking system.

The support system for epidemiological investigations will cease operating when the coronavirus outbreak ends and all collected personal data will be deleted, it added.

The smart city data program has been under development by the central government and the municipal government of Daegu, the ground zero for the local coronavirus outbreak.

As of Wednesday, South Korea had more than 9,100 coronavirus cases with the death toll reaching 126. (Yonhap)