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(2nd LD) Virus patients to face fines over info concealment

All News 16:36 March 09, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS police agency and Seoul city government's stances in paras 11-14, photo; CHANGES hospital name)

SEOUL/SEJONG, March 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korean health authorities warned Monday that any new coronavirus patients will face fines for concealing their travel history, residences and other important information.

The measure comes as a 78-year-old patient at a Seoul hospital was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sunday. But despite repeated inquiries, the virus patient misled the hospital staff and gave incorrect information about her residence and other details.

The patient, a resident in the southeastern city of Daegu -- the epicenter of the virus outbreak here -- also denied her multiple trips to the city during hospitalization.

Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital in downtown Seoul has temporarily closed its emergency room since Sunday.

Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip speaks during a press conference at the government complex in Sejong, central South Korea, on March 9, 2020, about the spread of the new coronavirus that has hit the country.

"The government can impose fines under 10 million won if patients do not tell the truth about their travel history to health authorities," Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said in a daily briefing. The amount is equivalent to US$8,296.

According to the hospital, the patient hid her residence as she was previously denied entry to another general hospital in Seoul.

Health authorities and hospital officials said they are looking into the patient's records and CCTV footage to check anyone who had contact with her.

All medical staff and doctors who had previous contact are currently under self-quarantine, according to the hospital.

"Tests for the COVID-19 virus are conducted on any patient or medical staff suspected of having been in contact with the confirmed patient for the safety of all patients and staff," Oh Sang-hoon, a director at Paik Hospital, said.

Kim said the government will take administrative measures against hospitals that deny patients from Daegu without clear medical reasons.

Police and hospital officials are seen at Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital in central Seoul on March 9, 2020. The hospital was closed after a patient from Daegu was diagnosed with COVID-19. (Yonhap)

In a written statement to reporters, National Police Agency chief Min Gab-ryong said police are looking into the case and will "swiftly and sternly" deal with any irregularities.

The police have so far received over 10,000 reports relating to the virus and are probing 20 cases that allegedly breached public health law, according to Min.

In a separate press briefing, Seoul city government's civil health bureau director, Na Baeg-ju, said the city will look into the case and seek legal advice.

Na added that the patient did not show typical symptoms of the virus, such as fever.

The country has so far reported a total of 7,382 virus cases as of Monday, with an additional 248 new cases identified on Sunday.

So far, 51 people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses, have died in South Korea from the respiratory virus that emerged in China late last year, the KCDC said.



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