The Korean government has laid out enhanced quarantine guidelines for the new coronavirus as concerns about the spread of the virus in the nation have increased over the past few days.
From now on, the government intends to self-quarantine everyone who has “routine contacts” with the confirmed patient, and regardless of the times they interacted with the patient, for a mandatory period of two weeks. So far, the government self-quarantined only those who were in “close contact” with the patient and monitored only those who were in the vicinity of the patient through public health centers.
However, experts had pointed out that the distinction between close contact and routine contact was ineffective.
The strengthened criteria came after the health authorities had categorized the sixth confirmed patient as a person who was in routine contact with the third confirmed patients and only conducted active surveillance. However, the sixth case also proved to be a confirmed patient later.
In a similar context, the government has significantly eased the conditions under which new coronavirus tests can be performed.
Previously, health officials checked only people who showed signs of pneumonia after traveling to China over the past two weeks. In the future, however, if there are symptoms such as fever and cough within 14 days, all non-suspecting patients should receive the test for the new coronavirus.
It also will screen confirmed, suspected and pseudo-symptomatic patients who have not been to China if doctors at local health centers think it necessary.
The test will be done by using the real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method developed by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which takes about six hours.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is also taking steps to implement a rapid approval process for test reagents. The ministry and the KCDC plan to decide the date to disperse the test reagents to advance screening clinics as soon as the test reagents are approved.
"If the rapid approval process for test reagents is approved, we expect private clinics will be able to conduct the tests within this week," said Kim Kang-rip, vice-minister of the Ministry of Health. "We have already secured a sufficient amount of test reagents to supply to regional test centers."
Meanwhile, excluding the one patient that tested positive on Sunday, the 700 evacuees who arrived from Wuhan all tested negative for the new coronavirus.
However, the possibility of additional confirmed patients out of the 700 negative test results remains because even if a patient is infected, the test may be negative if the virus didn't multiply in their body at the time.
The government plans to continue to quarantine the evacuees for 14 days in the temporary living facilities while monitoring for fevers twice a day and conducting additional tests if they have any unusual symptoms.
After 14 days, even if they show no symptoms, the evacuees will be given one final examination before the government releases them.