|Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during a pan-government meeting on coronavirus responses at the Government Complex in Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
The government will implement stricter screening procedures for travelers from the United States, starting Friday, amid a continuous spike in the number of foreign-origin COVID-19 cases here, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Wednesday.
The enhanced measures require entrants from the United States who show any symptoms associated with the new coronavirus to be moved to a quarantine station at airports to undergo coronavirus tests.
Korean nationals, and foreigners who will stay a long time in Korea, are required to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine even if they do not show any symptoms.
Chung said during a pan-government meeting on the coronavirus response that it was an urgent task to tighten quarantine measures on arrivals from the United States as the risk of an influx of cases from other countries has kept increasing.
"There is no time for delay as an increasing number of Korean nationals in the United States including students studying there are expected to return home amid the rapid spread of the infectious virus in that country," Chung said.
The government had already begun conducting coronavirus tests on all arrivals from Europe, Sunday.
With regard to entrants from the U.S., the government will conduct tests only on those who show symptoms for now, as the number of people who were infected in the U.S. has been less than those infected in Europe.
The government said it would conduct tests on all arrivals from the U.S. if the number of infections increases.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) detected 100 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the total here to 9,137.
Of the new cases, 51 patients were infected abroad, including 34 detected at airports.
"Of the 51 imported infections, 43 were Korean nationals and eight were foreigners," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official in charge of containment measures, said during a briefing. "Of the total 9,137 patients, 227 were infected abroad, with Korean nationals accounting for 91 percent. The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens living abroad."
The number of infections of foreign origin here has rapidly increased this month from four in the first week to 18 in the second week to 74 in the third week.
The government has faced growing calls to extend tests to people coming from all countries, not only Europe, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic crisis.
The prime minister said the KCDC and Ministry of Health and Welfare are working to come up with sustainable measures to effectively contain the contagious disease.
He also called for the need to more thoroughly monitor the health of not only medical staff but also caregivers at nursing homes as sporadic mass infections have continued to occur at facilities housing elderly people who are especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus.