February 07, 2020 13:23
Some 1,000 people have been told by health officials to quarantine themselves since the first case of coronavirus infection was confirmed in Korea on Jan. 20. But there is no way of being sure that they will all comply.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since Tuesday stopped differentiating between people who came into direct contact with infected patients and those who only had indirect contact with them and asked all of them to quarantine themselves.
A thousand people who came into direct or indirect contact with infected patients have been placed in quarantine at home. Forty-five people who came into contact with the first patient were released from self-quarantine on Monday as the latency period expired, but it is unclear how many people came into contact with the 18th to 23rd cases who were only confirmed on Wednesday and Thursday.
It is naturally an inexact science, and local authorities are having problems keeping tabs on all those who may have brushed up against infected patients. The hapless targets are being threatened with a W3 million fine if they are found outside their homes, but actual monitoring is done just by calling them (US$1=W1,184).
According to a 2018 study by Kyunghee University Hospital at Gangdong, 50.6 percent of 81 staff at a university hospital who were put into self-quarantine during the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2015 confessed to sneaking out now and again. Thirteen said they needed to get some fresh air, nine said their work forced them to leave their home, and five said they just ignored the instructions.
During the MERS outbreak, around 17,000 people were placed under self-quarantine.
Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young said Thursday, "We need to come up with more effective monitoring measures, because even people in self-quarantine at home could come into contact with other family members."
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