South Korean health authorities warned Monday that any new coronavirus patients will face fines for concealing their travel history, residences and other important information.
The measure comes as a 78-year-old patient at a Seoul hospital was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sunday. But despite repeated inquiries, the virus patient misled the hospital staff and gave incorrect information about her residence and other details.
The patient, a resident in the southeastern city of Daegu ― the epicenter of the virus outbreak here ― also denied her multiple trips to the city during hospitalization.
The Baik Hospital in downtown Seoul has temporarily closed its emergency room since Sunday.
"The government can impose fines under 10 million won if patients do not tell the truth about their travel history to health authorities," Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said in a daily briefing. The amount is equivalent to $8,296.
According to the hospital, the patient hid her residence as she was previously denied entry to another general hospital in Seoul.
Health authorities and hospital officials said they are looking into the patient's records and CCTV footage to check anyone who had contact with her.
All medical staff and doctors who had previous contact are currently under self-quarantine, according to the hospital.
"Tests for the COVID-19 virus are conducted on any patient or medical staff suspected of having been in contact with the confirmed patient for the safety of all patients and staff," Oh Sang-hoon, a director at Baik Hospital, said.
Kim said the government will take administrative measures against hospitals that deny patients from Daegu without clear medical reasons.
The country has reported 274 new cases of the novel coronavirus over the past 16 hours, bringing the nation's total number of infections to 7,041, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, 48 people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses, have died. (Yonhap)