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Parliamentary panel passes 3 quarantine-related bills over new coronavirus

All News 16:20 February 20, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) -- A parliamentary committee passed a set of three bills aimed at beefing up the quarantine response to contagious diseases Thursday as South Korea seeks to contain the rapid spread of the new coronavirus.

The parliamentary health panel approved the three measures -- proposals to revise the quarantine act, the infectious disease control and prevention act and the medical service act.

They will be put forward for review by the legislation committee soon. As early as next week, the bills could be passed at a parliamentary plenary session.

South Korea has reported 82 cases of COVID-19 so far amid concerns that the virus has begun spreading locally.

A bill to revise the quarantine act, if passed, would allow the health minister to ask the justice minister for an entry ban on foreigners coming from areas where an infectious disease is spreading or from regions at risk of such a contagion.

The act is set to be revised for the first time since it was enacted in 1954.

A revision to the infectious disease act calls for permitting the government to provide face masks to people who are vulnerable to infections when the country's contagious disease alert level is raised to the level above "caution."

The bill would also allow the health minister to order a ban on exports of face masks or hand sanitizer for a certain period when the spread of an infectious disease causes a sharp rise in prices of medical products or supply shortages.

The number of quarantine officials at the health ministry would rise to more than 100 from the current 30. The measure also calls for doctors and pharmacists to check patients' records of foreign travel via a shared information program when they prescribe medication.

A proposal to revise the medical service act is aimed at beefing up the country's infection monitoring system targeting patients, their family and health workers.

This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows quartantine officials disinfecting a flight and an international airport. (Yonhap)


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