SEOUL, Aug. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea said Friday it will gradually require foreign new coronavirus patients to share the costs of their treatment here, with those who violate local rules being obligated to fully pay the bill.
Health authorities said they will request foreign COVID-19 patients to pay the costs for their medical services here starting Monday if they are found to have violated quarantine rules.
From Aug. 24, the country will charge foreigners a different amount by considering the principle of reciprocity in diplomatic relations.
South Korea has been providing free medical services to all COVID-19 patients reported here, including foreigners.
“The new measure will be applied to foreigners breaking self-quarantine rules or handing in fabricated polymerase chain reaction test results,” Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said in a briefing.
There have been growing calls for foreign patients to share the burden, as the prolonged virus pandemic is poised to further burden taxpayers.
South Korea has been cautious about changing its free-of-charge treatment policy due to diplomatic issues.
“We will charge different costs depending on the patients’ nationality, and consider how the partner countries are charging our nationals,” Kim added.
South Korea, however, will still exempt all costs for foreigners who became infected with the virus here, to curb the community spread.
Foreigners enrolled in the country’s public health care insurance will be eligible for state support.
On Friday, South Korea reported 18 imported cases, raising the total caseload to 2,618.
So far, South Korean nationals have accounted for 65.4 percent of the imported infections, while foreigners took up 34.6 percent.
Asian nations, excluding China, accounted for 45.4 percent of the imported cases, followed by the Americas with 31.2 percent.
Half of the total cases were found at the border checkpoints.
The number of daily local virus cases in South Korea jumped to an over 4-month high Friday, rising 103 as sporadic clusters in the greater Seoul area piled up.