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(2nd LD) S. Korea considering wristbands to prevent self-isolators going outside

Welfare/Medicine 16:15 April 07, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with details from gov't meeting in paras 5-7)

SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is considering using electric wristbands to prevent people in self-isolation from going outside, an official said Tuesday, amid growing concerns over people breaching the rules and spreading the coronavirus.

"A majority of people are following self-isolation (rules), but there have been some cases of (people) leaving (designated venues)," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, told reporters in a press briefing.

"If the self-isolation rules are not kept, this would put the government in a position to consider various measures to prevent such a move," said Yoon, citing the wristbands as a potential option.

The official, however, acknowledged the negative sentiment associated with electric wristbands, saying the focus would be on finding an effective way in line with quarantine guidelines.

(2nd LD) S. Korea considering wristbands to prevent self-isolators going outside - 1

The idea is therefore expected to take some time to materialize as the government weighs the pros and cons of using wristbands.

Officials discussed the issue at a closed-door ministerial meeting hosted by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, but failed to reach a consensus.

Those who opposed the idea reportedly cited risks of infringing on human rights and technical difficulties in launching the system in a short time.

The wristband idea surfaced amid concerns over those potentially infected with COVID-19 leaving self-isolation venues and spreading the virus in local communities.

The government runs a mobile app to monitor people in self-isolation, but there have been cases where people left their phones at home or turned off the GPS function.

Law authorities have found 75 people who have breached self-isolation rules. Six of them have been transferred to the prosecution for further probe.

South Korea mandated a two-week self-isolation for all international arrivals starting Wednesday.

Some 46,566 people, including more than 36,000 international arrivals, are currently in self-isolation. The figure is expected to grow to more than 80,000.

Starting Sunday, the government also heightened measures against people who violate the two-week isolation or give false information during the quarantine process to a maximum 1-year jail term or 10 million won (US$8,172) in fines.

South Korea announced 47 new cases Tuesday, bringing the country's total infections to 10,331.

mlee@yna.co.kr
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