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Press Release

(2.16) COVID-19 Response Meeting Presided Over by the Prime Minister

  • Date : 2020-02-16
  • Hit : 4593

COVID-19 Response Meeting Presided Over by the Prime Minister

- Implementation status of COVID-19 response plans, infection control and international student management at schools, infection control at places of business, etc. -

□ The expanded Central Incidence Management System for COVID-19 (IMS) held a meeting presided over by the Prime Minister and discussed ▲ the implementation status of COVID-19 response plans, ▲ the evacuation of Korean citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, ▲ infection control and international student management measures at schools, and ▲ infection control measures at places of business.

1. Review of the implementation status of plans to analyze COVID-19 outbreak paths and to respond to infections (IMS)

□ The participants recognized that the nation is now facing the crucial moment to focus all its resources on blocking the community spread of COVID-19 and discussed ways to contain possible infections within the community and healthcare institutions in addition to stepping up the measures to block the influx of COVID-19.
○ It was concluded at today's meeting ▲ to expand diagnostic testing for early patient detection and establish a social monitoring system and ▲ to further reinforce measures to prevent possible infections at healthcare institutions and protect vulnerable facilities (senior care facilities and hospitals, etc.).

- In light of this decision, diagnostic testing will be conducted on those without a history of overseas travel at the discretion of physicians in charge as well as patients hospitalized for pneumonia of unidentified cause regardless of overseas travel history.

- It was also decided to include COVID-19 testing in the hospital-based severe acute respiratory infections (SARIs) surveillance system (currently encompassing 13 hospitals) and the influenza lab sample surveillance system (currently encompassing 52 clinics), while also expanding the base of healthcare providers participating in these systems to detect community infections as early as possible through a tight-knit surveillance network.

- Outside visitors to vulnerable facilities such as senior care facilities and hospitals will be restricted. Also, employees at such facilities will be excused from work for 14 days after entry from China and other neighboring countries and will be subject to diagnostic testing if they show related symptoms such as a cough and fever.

□ The community spread of COVID-19 infections in China still continues, and cases of unidentified infection paths without a history of travel in neighboring regions are being detected. Due to rising concerns over the community spread of COVID-19 infections in Korea, the government will further tighten the special immigration procedures aimed at blocking the influx of COVID-19.

○ The government has mandated all inbound travelers from China (including Hong Kong and Macao) to undergo fever testing upon arrival, submit the health condition questionnaire, have their actual locations of residence and contact information confirmed, and install the self-diagnosis app on their mobile devices and submit their self-diagnosis results every day.*
* Although it is still in the initial stage of implementation (from February 12 onwards), the app installation rate has reached 83.5% and the rate of those undergoing self-diagnosis on a daily basis among those who installed the app stands at 88%.
- Those who are diagnosed with related symptoms for two consecutive days are directed to KCDC and local governments for surveillance. Text message warnings of penalties, etc., are sent to those who fail to respond by text message, and consultations through the KCDC call center are given to suspected cases.

○ We are advising the cancellation of non-urgent visits to the major regions of virus outbreaks other than China and adherence to the code of conduct for infection prevention during travel, while allowing healthcare providers and pharmacies to access and check each patient's travel history.

□ We are continually enhancing our measures to prevent community spread by ensuring early patient detection and diagnosis.

○ In accordance with the response plan released on February 9, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety is solely charged with supervising local governments' self-isolation affairs*, and the city- and province-level isolation facilities for contacts of confirmed cases have been drastically increased (766 rooms at 17 locations → 872 rooms at 23 locations).
* The head of the Government Measure Support Center was changed from the head of the Disaster Management Cooperation Office to the Vice Minister for Disaster and Safety Management, and the working group was participated in by all organizational units of the Ministry in addition to the National Disaster and Safety Status Control Center

- The number of diagnostic tests were drastically increased* for early patient detection, with the daily testing capacity expanded from 3,000 (as of February 7) to 5,000 (as of February 16), which is expected to reach 10,000 by the end of February.
* Diagnostic testing cases: (February 6) 142 → (February 7) 815 → (February 11) 1,262 → (February 12) 872 → (February 14) 626
* △ (Clinical specimen collection institutions) 407 → 443 △ (Testing institutions) 46 → 80 (scheduled)

- We are reviewing the operation status of city and provincial screening clinics to block the spread of infections within healthcare institutions. We have requested reserve funds (KRW 23.3 billion) for supplying air tents and portable negative-pressure units.

- We plan to receive applications for grants for living expenses and paid leave for hospitalized and isolated people from February 17 onwards as an extension of our efforts to elicit active public participation in infection control.

○ We also plan to continually reinforce the screening and treatment systems to contain the community spread of COVID-19.

- The hospital beds designated by the government will be prioritized for the hospitalization of confirmed cases (the current occupation rate stably maintained at 18.6%), while allowing local governments to flexibly utilize beds at regional hub hospitals, general hospitals equipped with negative-pressure rooms, and hospitals specializing in infectious diseases. In addition, we will review city- and province-level bed operation plans on an individual basis (from February 17 onwards).

- In order to promptly conduct epidemiological investigations with the detection of each confirmed case, we plan to expand the number of central immediate response teams from the current 10 to 30 and to implement training of new staff from February 24 onwards.

- Upper-level governments expanded their epidemiological investigation teams from 18 (114 officers) to 40 (249 officers), while lower-level governments expanded them from 325 (1,928 officers) to 562 (3,299 officers).

○ The government will thoroughly keep track of infection outbreaks both in Korea and abroad and continually increase its efforts to block the entry and community spread of the virus. The government will reinforce the concerted efforts to respond to the virus with local governments, private healthcare providers, and medical and pharmaceutical organizations.

2. Evacuation of Korean citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

□ Today's IMS meeting included a discussion on the evacuation of Korean citizens onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship with confirmed cases increasing.

○ The Japanese government announced its plan to conduct COVID-19 diagnostic testing on all passengers onboard and to allow those confirmed as negative to consecutively leave the ship from the 19th onwards.

○ The government decided to take steps to transport any Korean passengers who are confirmed as negative by the Japanese authority and wish to return to Korea even before February 19. To this end, we will accurately identify all Korean passengers' intentions and discuss the matter with the Japanese government accordingly.

○ Regardless of their decision to leave or stay, all Korean citizens onboard the cruise ship will be provided with consular support until the outbreak subsides.

3. Reinforcement of infection control at preschools, elementary schools, and middle schools for the opening of the upcoming semester (Ministry of Education)

□ The Ministry of Education plans to reinforce infection control at preschools and schools in preparation for the start of the upcoming semester and ensure safety in advance.

○ Schools will conduct special sterilization of their entire premises prior to the opening of the semester and daily sterilization of high-traffic places and facilities (faucets, door knobs, handrails, etc.) once the semester begins.

○ Education to ensure hygiene on an individual level (how to handle coughing, how to wash hands properly, how to respond to suspicious symptoms, etc.) will be given starting from the first day of school, and school policies and the code of conduct for infection prevention will be shared with parents to resolve concerns and prevent infection.

○ If a school needs to be shut down due to the detection of a confirmed case among students or school personnel, the health authorities and the Ministry of Education will closely cooperate to keep the shutdown period at a minimum and provide support for normalizing the academic schedule.

4. Measures to protect and manage international students from China (Ministry of Education)

□ The Ministry of Education announced the Measures to Protect and Manage International Students from China to ensure the healthcare of international students and infection control of universities and related communities as the influx of students from China is projected to expand due to the opening of the upcoming semester.

○ First, they will be thoroughly monitored stage-by-stage prior to and upon entry.

○ Prior to entry, their entry dates, (planned) locations of residence, and contact information will be checked and confirmed. Any infection control measures taken, such as the postponement of the opening date of the semester and the suspension of attendance, will be notified in advance. Those students experiencing difficulties in entering Korea due to delays in visa issuance related to the virus outbreak will be guided to utilize distance education in China or recommended to take a leave of absence.

○ Upon entry, reinforced quarantines will be conducted in accordance with the special immigration procedures. Their health conditions will be thoroughly monitored, and their entry will be immediately reported to university staff for continued monitoring by individual universities.

○ After entry, each university shall check individual students' conditions on a daily basis for the 14-day period of attendance suspension and make sure they stay isolated at and refrain from leaving their location of residence.

- One room per student under isolation shall be given for those staying at dormitories. Each student will be closely monitored on a daily basis to minimize contact with other students, and those who develop related symptoms will be immediately reported to the health authorities.

- Those staying at off-campus accommodations shall be guided to refrain from going outside or coming into contact with others for two weeks, and universities shall monitor their health conditions at least once per day. Students will be required to check their conditions using the self-diagnosis app and report the results on a daily basis. Those who fail to follow these guidelines will be managed in cooperation with public health centers and local governments.

- The restriction on the use of facilities frequented by large groups of people, such as cafeterias and libraries, shall be notified to the students in advance, and related details shall be handled by individual universities.

○ After the attendance suspension period ends, each university shall check the conditions of the students and make the final decisions on their attendance.

○ In order to enable a prompt response as soon as symptoms are detected in collaboration with the health authorities, the university-local government-health authority hotline will be established, and a unit dedicated to international student management will be set up at universities to more systematically handle infection control of international students.

○ The government will closely communicate with student associations, international student groups, school personnel, and parents along with universities to increase mutual understanding, guide students to voluntarily follow the given instructions, and prevent any unnecessary conflicts.

- The central government, local governments, and universities will make a concerted effort to block COVID-19 infections and discuss necessary financing together.

5. Infection control of places of business and support for employment stability (Ministry of Employment and Labor)

□ The Ministry of Employment and Labor will continually provide support for infection control of places of business and for the stabilization of employment of those businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

○ First, preventive measures (physical checkups prior to and after entry) for foreign workers newly entering Korea will be further reinforced*.
* Infection control and sterilization of employment education providers (February 4), physical checkups prior to and after entry and strengthened fever testing during employment education (February 6), and the distribution of the code of conduct for infection prevention (how to wash hands properly, how to handle coughing, etc.) in 16 languages (February 7)

- In particular, those workers entering Korea from China after the Spring Festival will be advised to take a leave of absence for two weeks.

○ 720,000 masks are being distributed mainly to vulnerable places of business, and 800,000 more will be additionally distributed* if it is deemed necessary.
* 800,000 masks will be additionally distributed to vulnerable places of business frequented by outside visitors (public institutions, ports, accommodations in Jincheon and Asan, etc.) if it is deemed necessary (at the end of February).

○ Those places of business that are temporarily shut down due to the visit of a confirmed case or experience a reduction in production or demand due to the COVID-19 outbreak shall be given aid by easing the requirements for employment maintenance support aid*.
* Even if the requirements (15% decline of sales, etc.) are not met, such places of business shall be recognized as "an employer facing inevitable employment readjustment" and offered aid (1/2-2/3 of personnel expenses paid by the employer).

- Relevant measures shall be promptly taken pursuant to preset requirements when those places of business experiencing a drastic increase in production as a result of the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 or a transition to domestic manufacturing apply for special extended work hours.

○ We plan to include recommendations to prevent any possible downturn due to excessive infection control measures* in the code of conduct for infection control of places of business and distribute it on February 17.
* (Infection control of places of business) Places visited and items used by confirmed patients should be thoroughly sterilized and allowed to be used again after two days (prohibited for two days including the day of sterilization). ▴(Use of masks) It is not necessary to wear a mask in uncrowded outdoor places or secluded areas.

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