Korea’s new coronavirus cases continued its downturn on Tuesday, but infections from abroad kept rising, triggering calls for expanding complete inspection to arrivals from America.
As of midnight Monday, the nation reported 76 new COVID-19 patients to a total of 9,037. Hospitals have sent 341 more patients back to home after completely curing them. Nine more people died, raising the total number of victims to 120.
Among the nine deaths was a patient who had entered Korea from Europe and stayed at a facility in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province. The patient responded positively to the COVID-19 test later and was transported to a hospital. A total of 112 people have left the institute and isolated themselves, and 207 more people will leave the place as they showed a negative response to the test.
As part of efforts to cope with a rise in imported infections in earnest, the government will operate 40 walk-through screening booths at Incheon International Airport to test those who enter from abroad from Wednesday.
The walk-through medical booth has the shape of a public phone box. When a patient enters, the medical staff collects a sample from the patient on the other side or outside the box. The team will collect another sample from the next booth while the used one is being sterilized.
While the existing screening clinics took 30 minutes to do so, the walk-through screening booth takes only six or seven minutes to collect patients' samples because the medical staff moves around the boxes.
The public health authorities introduced the new facility amid mounting calls for tightening COVID-19 inspections on visitors entering from the United States.
On Monday, 1,203 people came to Korea from Europe, and about 90 percent of them were Korean nationals. Of them, 101 people showed symptoms, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far, there were 144 confirmed cases from abroad – 84 from Europe, 22 from America, 20 from Asia, 16 from China and two from Africa. The U.S. has reported more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases, which makes it the country with the third most patients.
"Entrants from the U.S. as well as Europe need to place themselves under self-quarantine for two weeks,” said the Professor Um Joong-sik of Infectious Disease Division at Gachon University Gil Hospital. “It seems that most of these entrants who are Korean nationals can isolate themselves.
Meanwhile, some critics of the Moon Jae-in administration are taking issue with conducting free tests for all new arrivals, including foreigners.
According to the Prime Minister, the government's measure to conduct complete enumeration on travelers entering from Europe is only to protect Korea and its citizens. He also explained that 90 percent of them are Koreans.
In response, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government’s conduct of complete tests on foreigners is only to protect Korea and its people.
Prime Minister Chung also called for cooperation in social distancing to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infections, saying, “Even one person's careless act could cause irreparable injury to others and destroy the community."
He cited WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as also saying, “One person can determine other people's life and death.”
Korea has tested 348,582 people and confirmed 9,031 patients as of midnight Monday. Among the tested, 333,142 people have responded negatively to the detecting test, and 15,440 people are still being tested. The accumulated confirmation rate is 2.7 percent, and the mortality rate, 1.33 percent.