April 06, 2020 13:14
A considerable proportion of recent coronavirus patients arrived from overseas or were infected by family members who have been abroad.
As of 6 p.m. Saturday, a total of 37,248 people were in self-quarantine across the country, 79 percent of them after returning or traveling from abroad. The number has swollen by more than 5,000 a day since all arrivals from overseas have been ordered to quarantine themselves for two weeks since April 1.
But an increasing number of people have been caught breaking self-quarantine orders over the weekend.
The Gunpo city government in Gyeonggi Province on Saturday filed a police complaint against a married couple in their 50s and their daughter who had tested positive for coronavirus. The husband had ventured outside their home for the last seven days and the wife for six days. When they were ordered to quarantine themselves, they were also told to install a smartphone app that can monitor them, which they refused to do.
"Unlike foreigners or Korean evacuees from overseas, we can't force locals who did not travel overseas to install the smartphone app," a city spokesman said. But an investigation suggests that they routinely ventured outside but left their smartphones at home to avoid GPS tracking.
In Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, three Vietnamese students who were in self-quarantine went to a nearby park for five hours last Friday but left their phones at their residence. They now face deportation by the Justice Ministry.
An 18-year-old Korean student from the U.S. was found in Busan on Saturday to have taken a large dose of antipyretics right before boarding a plane at a U.S. airport and passed quarantine inspections here.
With many people taking advantage of quarantine loopholes, a spokesman for the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said health officials and police officers will make surprise visits to check.
He warned that anyone violating self-quarantine orders faces jail for up to a year or a fine of up to W10 million effective Sunday" (US$1=W1,236). Until Saturday, violators were just fined up to W3 million.
The self-diagnosis app sends an alarm to an official in charge if a person in self-quarantine is 30 m away from his or her home. But of the 59 violators caught nationwide as of Sunday, only 28 were discovered by the app.
A ministry official said, "We call them only when they fail to report on their health on a daily basis by simply ticking their status on the app."
Ma Sang-hyuk of the doctors' association in South Gyeongsang Province said, "There are inevitably many violators if we rely only on the app and people's sense of civic responsibility to control those in self-quarantine."
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