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S. Korea sets guidelines limiting release of private info of coronavirus patients

All News 16:47 March 14, 2020

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea set new guidelines advising local governments to hold back unnecessary private information of coronavirus patients on Saturday.

Regional governments across South Korea have alerted their residents against coronavirus infection risks, releasing detailed routes and destinations used by coronavirus patients within their jurisdiction.

During the process, the private information of some patients, including the names of their employers, occupations and identities, have been leaked to the public, sparking a controversy over invasion of privacy.

In a bid to counter this, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) authored the guidelines and released them to regional governments.

Under the guidelines, authorities are advised to disclose information on the destinations patients visited, as well as how they traveled there, but to withhold any detailed information that could clarify the identity of patients, including their addresses and companies they work for.

The guidelines allow the disclosure of such private information when a patient may have infected large numbers of colleagues at work, however.

The guidelines also advise the regional governments to limit their information disclosure to the affected routes and places that actually carry the risk of virus infection, in consideration of how long a patient was in contact with them and whether a patient was wearing a protective mask.

Still, specific details of the public spaces and destinations a patient visited, including the names and the addresses of affected stores and routes of affected buses and other public transportation, are eligible for official disclosure unless the identities of all the people who came into contact with them are known.

"The KCDC came up with the guidelines in consideration of the recent recommendation by the National Human Rights Commission. ... The public interest of speedily identifying people who were exposed to (infection risks) and the interest of privacy protection have been comprehensively weighed," a KCDC official said in a briefing Saturday.

The latest move by the KCDC was made after the National Human Rights Commission expressed concerns on Monday that the private information of coronavirus patients is being unnecessarily disclosed to the public.

Officials disinfect a bus station in Guro Ward in Seoul on March 14, 2020. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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