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S. Korea preparing routine daily quarantine steps for possible prolonged pandemic

All News 16:29 March 30, 2020

SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is bracing for the possibility of a prolonged novel coronavirus pandemic as it plans to unveil guidelines for citizens to carry out quarantine measures as part of their daily routines.

Public health authorities said Monday said that a social dialogue body will be formed this week involving experts to discuss quarantine steps that can be taken in everyday life.

The "everyday life quarantine" guidelines are aimed at carrying out quarantine measures in a way that allows social and economic activities to continue.

"The guidelines will be the basic practice rules with which people will prevent COVID-19 from encroaching on living space and contain the transmission routes," Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip told a press briefing.

Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip holds a press briefing over the new coronavirus at the government complex building in the administrative city of Sejong on March 30, 2020. (Yonhap)

South Korea has urged people to implement stricter social distancing until April 5 to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The country has reported a total caseload of 9,661 since the first case on Jan. 20.

The tougher social distancing has called on people to avoid outdoor activity and mass gatherings in confined places, such as religious services.

But citizens' reluctance to go outside has also dealt a serious blow to the livelihoods of small firms and the self-employed, raising concerns that the Korean economy may face a recession.

The envisioned guidelines will contain a total of five general rules, including ways to enhance individual hygiene and maintain social distancing in people's everyday lives.

Quarantine authorities will also provide detailed practice rules that can be applied on a circumstantial basis.

The government said it will implement the everyday life quarantine measures to contain the outbreak of the virus at a level where hospitals and medical workers can handle COVID-19 patients. The steps will be advised until the pandemic ends with the development of vaccines.

But the government has yet to decide when to move to the day-to-day quarantine scheme as it is first targeting reducing new cases with social distancing.

"The government will decide when to shift into the mode after comprehensively considering factors, like the opening of the new school year and virus cases," Health Minister Park Neunghoo told a press briefing on Sunday.

South Korea has pushed back the new school year for kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools, by five weeks, until April 6.

The education ministry is weighing whether to introduce remote classes for all students or to start the spring semester only for high school seniors.

This photo, provided by the office of Seongdong Ward in Seoul on March 25, 2020, shows officials setting up a placard that detailed the cancellation of a forsythia festival and called for social distancing. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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