Saturday, February 29, 2020

Doctors’ group asks government to review restricting visits from China

Jan 26. 2020
Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip speaks during a briefing Sunday. (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)
Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip speaks during a briefing Sunday. (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)
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By The Koea Herald/ANN

A major doctors’ group on Sunday called on the South Korean government to make all necessary administrative preparations, including an entry restriction from China, to contain the spread of the new coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, China.

In a briefing at its office in Yongsan, central Seoul, the Korean Medical Association’s president Choi Dae-zip said that while the limit on entry “may not be imperative right now, at the time of speaking,” blocking the visitor flow may be “one of the most vital preventive measures against the epidemic.”

“Confirmed cases are increasing by the hundreds each day. Now is the time for a proactive, all-out action,” he said. 

“Health authorities should be monitoring the outbreak situation in China by the hour and consider the possibility of an entry ban."

This would run counter to government efforts to repatriate the 500-600 Korean citizens believed to remain in or around Wuhan.

Choi said the government should “brace for the worst case scenario,” calling for an emergency-level response akin to that applied during the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome in Korea in 2015.

He said patients who are showing symptoms of infection should first call the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hotline, 1339, before visiting the hospital, in order to prevent its spread. 

He also stressed strict observation of hygiene rules such as wearing of masks with filtration capabilities of KF 94 or higher at all times, and washing hands.

Earlier the same day, the KCDC said all regions of mainland China would be designated as an “area of contamination” from Tuesday.

The centers said all passengers from China would be required to identify their health conditions via a questionnaire when entering the country.

In addition, visitors from Hubei Province and the rest of China who are showing symptoms of pneumonia will be quarantined.

Choi said the government should draw up a list of everyone in Korea who had been in Wuhan or its surrounding Hubei Province and test them for infection.

Some 200 personnel from the Ministry of Defense, National Police Agency and regional governments will be deployed to help with screening at the airports, the centers said.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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