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(3rd LD) S. Korea to expand stricter quarantine to all arrivals from overseas

All News 19:33 March 29, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more details throughout)

SEOUL, March 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will enforce a two-week mandatory quarantine to cover all entrants from overseas over the new coronavirus starting April in a drastic measure to curb a steady rise in imported cases, officials said Sunday.

The country reported 105 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the nation's total to 9,583, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The death toll rose by eight to 152, it said.

The 105 new cases, which were detected Saturday, represented a fall from 146 infections a day earlier, the KCDC said.

The number of new infections remained around 100 or more for the 18th straight day, but the portion of imported cases is steadily rising.

Of the new cases, 41 involved entrants from overseas -- 23 from Europe, 14 from the Americas and four from unidentified Asian countries. Of the total infections, imported cases reached 412, accounting for 4.3 percent.

Under the new measure, all arrivals to the country regardless of nationality should stay in isolation for 14 days starting Wednesday. Visitors without local addresses here should stay in government-designated facilities at their own expense.

South Korea is currently enforcing both a two-week quarantine period and virus tests for all long-term arrivals from Europe, regardless of symptoms. Entrants from the U.S. have also been required to self-isolate at home for two weeks.

The government will also impose a two-week quarantine on all foreigners coming for short stays to prevent entry for unimportant purposes, such as tourism. Exceptions will be applied to those who have specific visas such as diplomatic or public affairs visas.

The government rejected calls to impose an entry ban on foreigners, citing the need for South Koreans to go abroad for essential business purposes.

"From the perspective of public and national interests, the government thinks that entry restriction measures are more rational than entry bans," Health Minister Park Neunghoo told a press briefing.

Arrivals from Europe receive tests for the new coronavirus at outdoor testing stations installed at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on March 29, 2020. (Yonhap)

The KCDC said the number of full recoveries rose more than twice as fast as new infections to top 5,000 in total.

An additional 222 patients have been released having recovered fully, bringing the number of total cured people to 5,033, the KCDC said.

South Korea's cure rate for people infected with the virus is 52.5 percent, an achievement that South Korean officials hailed in their fight against the contagious respiratory illness.

On Saturday, the number of cured people exceeded the number of quarantined patients for the first time since Jan. 20, when the virus was first detected on South Korean soil.

South Korea has strengthened social distancing through April 5 to contain the spread of the virus that emerged in China late last year.

Citizens are strongly urged to stay home, except for essential needs or jobs. The government has restricted religious gatherings, indoor sports activities and visits to nightclubs and other entertainment venues in a bid to stem small-scale cluster infections.

Despite the government's request, several Protestant churches in Seoul went ahead with Sunday services.

The KCDC said six more members of Manmin Central Church in Seoul were infected with the coronavirus, bringing the total number of COVID-19 patients at the church to 13.

South Korea's southeastern city of Daegu and neighboring North Gyeongsang Province -- the nation's two worst-affected regions -- reported 25 of the 105 new cases.

Medical professionals wearing protective gear are seen walking into a hospital in South Korea's southeastern city of Daegu on March 27, 2020. (Yonhap)


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