As the new coronavirus (COVID-19) has become a pandemic, the Korean government said it would toughen quarantine procedures for all people entering the country.
While new domestic confirmed cases shrank below 100, concerns were rising that an influx of COVID-19 patients from overseas could jeopardize efforts to contain the virus spread.
The government said it would perform special quarantine procedures for people coming from all countries of the world, starting from Thursday.
The special quarantine procedures have been applied to arrivals from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Iran, and Europe. From March 19, however, the procedures will apply to all entering Korea.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), 13,350 people entered the country by airplanes and ships, and 2,130 underwent special quarantine procedures. From Thursday, the number of people under the special measure is expected to exceed 10,000.
The latest measure aims to prevent the risk of imported cases, given many confirmed cases during the recent immigration process and the rapid spread of the virus.
KCDC said among 44 confirmed cases coming from outside the country, 14 were from China, 14 from other Asian countries, and 16 from Europe.
Among Koreans who recently entered the country, six tested positive for the virus. Such cases raised the need to block the virus from entering.
From Thursday, all people arriving at the Incheon International Airport must fill out the health questionnaires and special quarantine declaration cards distributed during flight. During the immigration process, they will have their body temperature checked and be screened for symptoms. If necessary, they will get tested for COVID-19.
The special quarantine procedures also include the report of a local residence address, mobile phone numbers, and the installation of a self-diagnosis mobile application.
Besides, the government will send the list of all people who entered the country to local governments to monitor them aggressively for 14 days after the arrival.
The authorities will provide the travel history of people coming from countries with a large number of confirmed cases for medical institutions through the Drug Utilization Review (DUR) and International Traveler Information System (ITS) so that local communities can swiftly screen out and monitor suspected patients.
The government said it planned to dispatch additional 73 workers, including quarantine officers, military medical doctors, nurses, and administrative personnel, to the airport, to enhance immigration and quarantine.
In preparation for an increase of symptomatic people, the government plans to install a temporary isolation facility and send 15 military medical doctors and support workforce.