The government will charge foreign coronavirus patients for the partial or entire cost of their treatment here.
"If the number of confirmed cases continues to increase among those coming from overseas, it could put a huge burden on our health system", Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said. "For the sake of diplomatic relations, we will apply a principle of reciprocity", i.e. those from countries that offer free treatment to Korean citizens will benefit from get it free here too.
The first step will be charging foreigners who violated self-isolation regulations. However, the government will continue to bear the cost of testing because it is essential for the containment of the epidemic.
Until recently the government had insisted that covering the entire cost of treatment of foreigners whose infection was confirmed in Korea was the global standard. But as public opinion worsened after a spike in the number of infected foreigners such as sailors of a Russian ship docked in Busan, the government changed its mind.
A total of 78 sailors from Russian trawlers tested positive in the last month. According to the Busan Medical Center, the average cost of treating the 20 of them who have already been released was W8 million (US$1=W1,203). Now it is estimated that W620 million will be spent on all of them.
Out of 440 confirmed cases who arrived from abroad over the last two weeks since July 12, 249 or 57 percent were foreign nationals. Over the weekend, Korea saw 171 new cases, a triple-digit rise for the first time in about four months. Some 132 were from overseas, mostly Korean workers airlifted from Iraq, and 46 were foreign nationals.
Meanwhile, Korea reported 25 new coronavirus cases as of Monday morning, bringing the total to 14,175.
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"Foreigners to Be Charged for COVID Treatment After All"
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