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(2.2) IMS meeting to respond to Novel Coronavirus is presided over by the Prime Minister

  • Date : 2020-02-02
  • Hit : 2976

IMS meeting to respond to Novel Coronavirus is presided over by the Prime Minister

- Discussing the denial of entry of those traveling from high-risk regions of China and other related measures -

□ The expanded Central Incidence Management System for Novel Coronavirus Infection (IMS) held a meeting to respond to Novel Coronavirus presided over by the Prime Minister. At the meeting, the current status of the response to and future measures to combat the virus and plans to restrict the entry of inbound travelers from China and deal with false information were discussed.

1. Current status of response to Novel Coronavirus and future measures (Ministry of Health and Welfare)

□ IMS focused on the fact that the infectivity and the speed of the spread of Novel Coronavirus are higher than MERS and influenza, while its fatality rate is projected to be lower than MERS but similar to SARS.
○ In particular, as Novel Coronavirus shows a distinct transmission pattern compared to existing infectious diseases*, IMS highlighted the need to concentrate on blocking its spread through aggressive early detection and isolation and preventing patients from advancing into serious cases.
* ▲ Unlike existing types of coronavirus infection, the possibility of transmission by patients with no or mild symptoms is high; ▲ it is difficult to distinguish it from general respiratory infections based solely on symptoms; and, ▲ although patients are being treated with existing antiviral drugs, their effectiveness has yet to be verified.

○ All relevant ministries arrived at the consensus that more preemptive and drastic infection control measures beyond the level suggested by scientific and medical perspectives must be taken.

□ In this context, IMS announced its plan to suspend travel to and from high-risk regions of China through cooperation with relevant ministries.

○ Foreigners from Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, will be banned from entering Korea until the risk of the entry of the virus subsides.

- Korean citizens arriving from Hubei will be allowed to enter but required to submit their domestic locations of residence and contact numbers and to self-isolate for 14 days after entry.

- If the denial of entry of travelers arriving from Hubei is deemed insufficient based on the magnitude of the spread of Novel Coronavirus infection in the future, the government will not hesitate to review the possibility of taking additional measures.

○ Immigration procedures for travelers from China will be further reinforced to thoroughly identify inbound travelers subject to the ban and minimize their entry into Korea.
- Special immigration procedures will be established for all Korean citizens and foreigners traveling from China.

- A separate arrivals hall for travelers from China will be operated. All Korean citizens and foreigners entering Korea from China will be required to submit their domestic locations of residence and contact numbers, and the authenticity of their contact information will be verified before they are granted entry.

- Visa issuance to enter Korea from China will also be restricted, and the possibility of suspending the issuance of short-term tourist visas for travelers from China will be reviewed.

○ Based on the rapid spread of Novel Coronavirus infection within China, it is deemed risky to travel to or stay in China. As such, the government is looking into the possibility of raising the travel alert level for China from "travel restraint" to "recommended withdrawal" depending on the region and banning non-essential tourist travel to China. In addition, the number of flights and ships to and from China will be reduced.

- Visa-free entry to Jeju Island currently being operated for Chinese nationals will also be temporarily suspended.

□ Major improvements to the epidemic prevention system to block the spread of Novel Coronavirus infection within the community are as follows.

○ First, in order to step up the isolation of all confirmed and suspected cases, close contacts and casual contacts* will no longer be divided, and all contacts of a confirmed case will be required to self-isolate for 14 days for the time being. Up until now, only close contacts were put under self-isolation, while casual contacts were subject to active monitoring. However, as mentioned above, all contacts will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from now on.

- Officials at public health centers and eup (town), myeon (township), and dong (neighborhood) offices will be designated to manage and support those put under self-isolation on a one-to-one basis.

- Those put under self-isolation will be compensated with financial aid for living expenses or paid leave. However, if they do not cooperate for self-isolation, a criminal charge will be brought against them and a fine of KRW 3 million or less will be imposed.

○ Second, in order to ensure early patient detection, examinations will be further accelerated through screening clinics (532 locations as of February 1) and examination expenses will be provided.

- All inbound travelers who have arrived from China in the past 14 days and show symptoms such as a fever and cough will be subject to diagnostic examinations even if they have not been classified as suspected cases. Up until now, only those diagnosed with pneumonia were required to undergo examinations. However, signs of illness including a fever and cough are now sufficient preconditions for such examinations.

- Confirmed patients, infected physicians, and those who develop symptoms while being monitored without any history of traveling to China will also be compensated for their examination expenses, provided that such examinations were conducted based on a physician's recommendation.

- However, those who develop symptoms after arriving from China must consult the KCDC call center (1339) first and then visit a healthcare institution in line with the center's advice.

○ Third, in order to prevent the spread of infection within the community, guidelines for excusing employees of public facilities, healthcare institutions, etc., from work and infection control standards for the users of such facilities will be distributed.

- Based on these guidelines, it will be recommended to excuse employees of daycare centers, preschools, schools, welfare facilities, senior care hospitals, etc., from engaging in care services and suspend users from visiting such facilities for 14 days after their arrival from China.

- The government plans to further reinforce infection control for visitors to group facilities such as welfare facilities, hospitals, etc., while regularly monitoring the occupants of such facilities. It will also ensure adherence to the code of conduct for infection prevention and environmental sterilization.

- As for facilities frequented by large groups of people such as theaters, department stores, etc., it will be advised to perform basic infection control including installing hand sanitizers on-site and requiring employees to wear masks. Guidelines on stringent infection control for events drawing large numbers of people will also be drawn up and distributed.

- The Minister of Education, in consultation with city- and provincial-level superintendents, has the authority to postpone the opening date of a new semester, temporarily close a school, and take other measures to reschedule academic affairs for individual schools (including preschools) in regions where virus infections have been confirmed or are suspected.

○ Lastly, the government plans to publicize its activities and communicate with the public through an omnidirectional approach. To share accurate information and the government's actions rapidly and ensure transparency, two regular briefings will be held on a daily basis and press releases will be distributed frequently, thereby unifying the government's communication channel.

- Diverse forms of media with different contact points with the public, from portal sites to SNS channels and KBS's disaster broadcasting service, will be employed to widely promote the code of conduct for infection prevention, etc.

- The government is determined to strongly combat the spread of false information by establishing a pan-governmental fake news response team in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; Korea Communications Commission; and National Police Agency.

2. Infection control for those with a history of traveling to China

□ IMS discussed ways to step up the infection control of inbound travelers arriving from China with relevant ministries.

2-1 Measures to block the spread of infection due to inbound tourists from China (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

○ In order to block the spread of infection by inbound tourists, including visitors from China, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has launched the tourism emergency response team for Novel Coronavirus in association with Korea Tourism Organization, Korea Tourism Association, and Korea Association of Travel Agents on January 24 to continually monitor the latest developments in the tourism industry concerning the outbreak of the new virus and readily handle any contingencies.

○ The Ministry will work to ensure infection control at all contact points of inbound tourists, including visitors from China, from their entry to departure in close cooperation with relevant ministries and local governments.

2-2 Infection control of Chinese students studying in Korea (Ministry of Education)

○ As multitudes of Chinese students are expected to enter Korea for the opening of the new semester, the Ministry of Education is preparing to put into operation the pan-governmental international student support team for Novel Coronavirus infection control headed by the Vice Minister of Education and participated in by director-level officials of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

○ In addition, the Ministry is considering recommending the postponement of the opening date of the new semester and developing academic affairs adjustment guidelines for offering online courses for all Chinese students banned from entry, etc.

2-3 Infection control of workers from China (Ministry of Employment and Labor)

○ As its highest priority, the Ministry of Employment and Labor is planning to perform reinforced infection control before permitting the entry of foreign workers from China and stationing them at their workplaces.

- Overseas Korean workers (H-2 visa) will be managed in accordance with the infection control procedures for general travelers from China upon their arrival. The mandatory vocational training for employment in Korea will be suspended for the month of February to prevent the possible spread of the virus. Additional measures may be taken if deemed necessary, such as the extension of the training suspension period.

- General foreign workers (E-9 visa) will be denied entry or put under isolation if any symptoms are detected through physical examinations prior to or following their entry into Korea.

○ In order to prevent the spread of infection within workplaces, the Ministry has taken steps to develop and distribute the Novel Coronavirus response guidelines for workplaces, which specify how to reinforce hygiene control, prevent the entry and spread of the virus, and respond to confirmed and suspected cases found on workplace premises.

- It is recommended to allow a two-week leave for a worker who has arrived from China or temporarily close the workplace for preemptive epidemic prevention. As many as 720,000 masks will be distributed to workplaces particularly vulnerable to Novel Coronavirus infection, such as workplaces with multiple foreign workers and construction sites, in February as an emergency measure.

3. Measures to respond to false information (Korea Communications Commission)
○ IMS discussed ways to rapidly eradicate fake news that groundlessly aggravates the public's fear and halt its creation at its source by sharing accurate information and ensuring fact-checking.

○ Relevant government bodies and ministries such as the Korea Communications Commission; Ministry of Health and Welfare; Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and National Police Agency have decided to establish a new response system to identify fake news lacking factual grounds and promptly inform telecommunications services and Internet service providers. The Korea Communications Commission will also call emergency meetings for deliberating on fake news cases.

○ IMS highlighted the need for all press organizations to ensure accuracy in their reporting and stressed its determination to block the spread of fake news by cooperating with telecommunications services and Internet service providers and sharing the government's reliable information in a prompt manner.

4. Measures to respond to the economic impact of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak (Ministry of Economy and Finance)

□ The meeting also addressed the impact of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak on the Korean economy by sector and from a macroeconomic perspective as well as ways to minimize its impact.

○ The Ministry of Economy and Finance will enact the public notice on the prohibition of price hikes on related goods by early February and strictly respond to all acts of stockpiling or avoiding the sale of medical face masks, hand sanitizers, etc., for profiteering.

* Any violation will incur an administrative penalty of a corrective order or suspension order or a criminal penalty of imprisonment with labor for 2 years or less or a fine of KRW 50 million or less.
- Monitoring of unfair trade practices such as price-fixing will be tightened, and any violation will be strictly dealt with pursuant to the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act.
* (Administrative penalty) Imposition of a penalty surcharge to the extent that it does not surpass 10% of sales
* (Criminal penalty) Imprisonment with labor for 3 years or less or a fine of KRW 200 million or less

○ The Ministry plans to closely monitor and analyze the impact of the outbreak on China and the global economy and develop short-term economic indicators aimed at rapidly identifying its influence on the Korean economy.

○ As for sectors projected to suffer greater damage such as exports, tourism, food service and hospitality, logistics, and shipping, a response team for each sector will be operated by the respective ministry to keep track of the latest trends and come up with ways to accurately identify obstacles and provide necessary business support through on-site inspections, etc.

5. Supply management and price stabilization for medical face masks
□ The government has set up an emergency response system with medical face mask manufacturers to ensure the smooth supply of masks and announced the plan to produce more than 10 million masks per day by operating factories around-the-clock.
○ In order to ensure the stable supply of masks, the government is monitoring the market situation on a daily basis. The inventories of all manufacturers are found to stand at approximately 31.1 million.
○ Most of the non-woven fabric, which is the main material for masks, is identified to be sourced domestically, and the production and distribution status of raw material suppliers is being monitored. The government will closely cooperate with relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy to ensure the stable sourcing of raw materials by diversifying suppliers and operating domestic production facilities at their maximum capacity.
□ The pan-governmental investigation team consisting of 120 representatives from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Fair Trade Commission, National Tax Service, and local governments has been formed to extensively crack down on market-disturbing acts such as panic-buying and price-hiking reported by the media.
○ In particular, the team is focusing on monitoring and investigating companies and wholesalers suspected of disturbing the market by profiteering. Those caught engaging in market-disturbing acts shall face imprisonment with labor for 2 years or less or a fine of KRW 50 million or less.

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