March 25, 2020 13:28
The government on Tuesday decided to downscale entry screening for coronavirus of all travelers from Europe on arrival at Incheon International Airport.
The decision came just two days after it tightened entry screening and is due to the overwhelming number of arrivals that resulted in shortages of medical staff and quarantine facilities.
Tests were delayed, forcing travelers to wait for long hours corralled together at the airport, and some arrivals were dismissed or overlooked only to test positive later.
According to health authorities, Koreans arriving from Europe without any visible symptoms are now told to quarantine themselves for up to three days before they can be tested at a facility near their residence.
Two days ago, those with a temperature and other telltale symptoms were examined in quarantine booths at the airport while those who did not were transported to eight locations outside the airport for testing and quarantine.
The government had estimated the number of travelers from Europe at between 1,200 and 1,300 a day, but in fact it was 1,444 on Sunday and many more are expected in coming days.
The government said it changed the quarantine measures to deal with the growing number of arrivals more effectively.
But doctors say that testing all travelers on arrival was a bad idea in the first place and went against advice from experts. Ma Sang-hyuk of the doctors' association in South Gyeongsang Province said, "It's very ineffective as it only consumes resources. Instead, the government should put more people under self-quarantine and test only those with telltale symptoms."
The current screening at the airport cannot detect all patients, especially those with no symptoms. Among 27 patients from overseas confirmed on Monday, five were found to be after spending several days in Korea.
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