The Latest: South Korea to limit information about patients
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic:
South Korea plans to limit the amount of information it releases about coronavirus patients amid criticism that the details currently shared reveal too much personal information and exacerbate panic.
The director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jung Eun-kyeong, said Friday her agency is drafting a new guideline for local governments to prevent them from releasing details that are unnecessary for quarantine and prevention work.
She didn’t say what specific recommendations would be included in the guideline.
South Korean health authorities have been actively using personal information — including immigration, public transportation, credit card and smartphone GPS data — to track patients and their contacts.
Details about the places patients visited before testing positive are posted online and shared through smartphone alerts to inform people who may have been in their vicinity.
South Korea’s Human Rights Commission on Monday raised concerns about the release of the data, saying patients were being exposed to “criticism, ridicule and hate.”
Some people have used the information to identify the patients and have publicly condemned them for moving around while sick.
There are concerns that the release of the detailed information is worsening panic and discouraging sick people from coming forward. A recent survey by Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Health found that many people were more afraid of being stigmatized as a virus patient than of catching the virus itself.
Norway has reported its first death from the coronavirus. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said “an elderly person” died Thursday in Oslo, without elaborating.
Protectively, King Harald V, members of the royal family and some government members have been put in quarantine because they had traveled abroad in recent weeks.
In Denmark, lawmakers have passed a temporary law under which authorities can force people who are suspected of having the virus to undergo tests. The law, which is to expire in March 2021, also gives authorities the ability to ban access to public places and stores.
The Danish government has already closed all schools and daycare facilities and ordered government workers who do not perform critical functions to stay home for the next two weeks,
Denmark’s popular Queen Margrethe has canceled all events around her 80th birthday on April 16.
Estonia has declared a state of emergency, meaning no events can take place in public areas.
“The emergency situation is necessary to stand against the spread of the coronavirus in Estonia in the most efficient manner,” Prime Minister Juri Ratas said late Thursday. “The state must be able to give citizens clear and if necessary mandatory instructions that would help to put a limit to the spread of the virus,” Ratas said, according to the Baltic News Service, the region’s main news agency.
He said he understands the inconvenience caused by declaring a state of emergency, “but what is at stake is not the protection of just people’s health, but also lives.”
Australia’s home affairs minister says he is infected with the new coronavirus.
Australian authorities have stepped up their response to the COVID-19 outbreak by recommending people avoid organized, nonessential gatherings of 500 or more from Monday and to reconsider all international travel.
Australia has more than 120 cases of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. It is mild to moderate for most people but can be severe in older adults and those with existing health problems.
Dutton said Friday he was in isolation in a hospital after confirmation he has the virus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he intended to attend a rugby league football match in Sydney on Saturday despite the government advise against large public gatherings.
Morrison announced his weekend sports plans before his Cabinet colleague Dutton revealed he was contagious. Opposition leader Anthony Albanese had already abandoned his plans to attend the same match because of the escalated health warnings.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the U.N. that his nation wants to conduct joint research on drugs and vaccines and offer “as much assistance as it can” to countries where the novel coronavirus is spreading.
State media reported Friday that Xi told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by phone that economic and daily life are gradually returning to normal in China thanks to “arduous endeavors” at prevention and control.
Xi was quoted as saying: “The Chinese people will definitely prevail over the COVID-19 epidemic and will also definitely realize its intended targets for economic and social development.”
He was also quoted as saying that the Chinese people’s “hard work has won precious time for and made important contributions to other countries’ epidemic prevention and control.”
China, where the virus was first discovered, recorded just eight new infections on Friday.
The Indonesian government is overseeing a campaign to clean 10,000 mosques around the country as part of its bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The cleaning campaign kicked off Friday at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta and was witnessed by President Joko Widodo and other officials.
Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi called on officers at mosques nationwide to roll up the carpets and spray disinfectant. The minister also called on worshippers at mosques to avoid any form of physical contact.
Razi said: “We temporarily recommend not to doing hand shaking, kissing on the cheek or other body contact as it is the medium of the transmission.”
Singapore has tightened measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus including expanding border controls, banning cruise ships and limiting mass gatherings.
From Sunday, travelers from Italy, Spain, France and Germany will not be allowed to enter the Southeast Asian city-state. Singapore earlier banned those from South Korea, Iran and China.
The Health Ministry said Friday that travelers who showed symptoms but tested negative for COVID-19 will now have to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days.
With immediate effect, it said Singapore will also cease port calls for all cruise vessels.
In addition, it said all ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events with 250 participants or more are to be deferred or canceled. For all other mass gatherings, including private functions and religious services, it urged organizers to ensure precautionary measures are taken including registering details of participants for possible contact tracing.
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