|An airport official clad in protective gear disinfects her desk at an immigration stand exclusively for inbound passengers with COVID-19 symptoms at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, Sunday. /Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
All travelers from the United States to Korea will be tested for COVID-19 within three days of self-quarantine beginning Monday as confirmed cases coming from the U.S. have been increasing steadily, the health authorities said Sunday.
According to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), out of 459 cases from overseas, 228, or 49.7 percent, came from the U.S. In the last two weeks alone.
All passengers from the U.S. have been under stricter quarantine measures since March 27 ― passengers who do not show symptoms are required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, and those who show symptoms are required to take tests at the airport.
However, new coronavirus cases in Korea stayed at around 30 for the second straight day on Saturday. According to the KCDC, 32 new cases were detected Saturday, bringing the total number of infections to 10,512. The death toll rose by three to 214.
The government is still on the alert as the possibility of cluster infections in Seoul remains high and imported cases are rising. Another challenge is controlling people under self-quarantine. The government is now forcing people who defy quarantine rules to wear tracking wristbands.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Saturday the measure was because of the increasing number of people who breached the rules in recent weeks.
"For those violating the quarantine order, such as going outside and not answering phone calls by quarantine officials, will be asked to wear the wristbands for the rest of their period," Chung said during a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters in Seoul.
But some people have pointed out that such a measure could be subject to potential human rights violations, and raised questions about how effective it would be because there was no legal grounds to strap the band on forcibly.
"We hope the violators will cooperate for the safety of themselves as well as others," Lee Beom-seok, a health ministry official in charge of quarantine measures, said during a regular briefing at the Government Complex in Sejong. "We also ask them to cooperate actively when signing the agreement for the wristband."