|Korea Racing Authority (KRA) officials disinfect the LetsRun Park Seoul in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, where cherry trees are in bloom, Sunday, while a rider trains a horse. The KRA closed the park and canceled this year's cherry blossom festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic. / Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
While tens of thousands of people here have been ordered to self-quarantine to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, violations of the order continue to be reported, disrupting the health authorities' desperate fight against the outbreak, officials said Sunday.
In a bid to cope with refusals to obey orders, the government strengthened the punishment of violators, starting Sunday ― Korean citizens who break self-quarantine can be jailed for up to one year and fined up to 10 million won ($8,000), while foreigners can be immediately deported.
Previously, violators faced a fine of up to 3 million won.
About 37,200 people, including 30,000 from overseas, have been ordered into self-quarantine as of Saturday, with the number expected to reach around 100,000 soon, with the government placing all new arrivals in mandatory self-quarantine, starting Wednesday.
Gunpo in Gyeonggi Province said Sunday it had reported a married couple in their 50s to police for breaking the self-quarantine rules.
The husband is the son of a woman, 85, who died from the coronavirus in a nursing home. The couple was placed in two-week self-quarantine, March 19, when the woman tested positive.
The husband tested positive April 1, a day before the couple was supposed to end their self-isolation, while the wife tested positive on April 3.
The health authorities found that the couple went out several times during the self-isolation period.
The couple visited an art gallery in Yongin, March 27, with their daughter, while the husband visited two lottery shops in Hwaseong, April 1, after being tested for the coronavirus at home.
The wife visited Hansei University, Dangjeong Station and many other places including gas stations, supermarkets and banks.
"The couple broke self-quarantine rules and visited too many places, prompting us to report them to the police," a Gunpo City official said. "We ask those subject to self-quarantine to comply with the rules to prevent any further spread of COVID-19."
In Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, three Vietnamese students were found leaving their quarantine premises without permission, Friday. They went out, leaving their smartphones behind to prevent tracking by the health authorities.
The provincial government has reported the case to the Ministry of Justice, and the ministry will make a deportation decision soon after an investigation.
In Busan, a woman in her 50s was found strolling through a park during the self-quarantine period.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) confirmed 81 additional COVID-19 cases and six more deaths Saturday, bringing the nation's total to 10,237, and the death toll to 183.
Among the new cases, 24 were detected at airports.
The KCDC has added smokers to the list of high-risk groups in dealing with the contagious disease.
The list of high-risk groups already included pregnant women, citizens over 65, and those suffering chronic diseases such as diabetes.