SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Korea Bizwire) — Foreigners staying illegally in South Korea, who are rapidly growing in number, are increasingly seen as stuck in a COVID-19 blind spot.
According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of foreigners detained at the immigration detention centers in Hwaseong in Gyeonggi province and in Cheongju in North Chungcheong province recently reached 760, the largest figure so far this year.
This figure has more than doubled since March (about 300) when the spread of COVID-19 was limited.
Experts warned that considering that the COVID-19 virus can survive longer in sealed areas than in open areas, if someone in the detention center tests positive for COVID-19, it could lead to higher risk of ‘Nth degree transmission.’
“The risk of COVID-19 spread is far higher in sealed areas such as shelters and detention centers than in general facilities.” said Lee Jae-gap, an infectious disease doctor at Hallym University Hospital.
The illegal foreign residents are widely seen as some of the most vulnerable people to the spread of the COVID-19 since it’s difficult to trace their activities as well as to check whether they are infected or not.
Back in May, the government decided to allow illegal foreign residents to get tested COVID-19 and undergo treatment without the need to worry about the cost or deportation.
Many illegal foreign residents, however, still refrain from going to public health centers to take a COVID-19 test primarily due to the fact that they have to pay for the treatment cost if they test positive for COVID-19.
Moreover, they also have to bear the burden of paying the entire treatment cost for themselves since they don’t subscribe to national health insurance plan.
“Illegal foreign residents, accordingly, hesitate to get tested for COVID-19 test even if they have some respiratory symptoms or know that they were in the same location as COVID-19 patients.” said Kim Dae-kwon, head of the migrants’ right group Friends of Asia.
“The government should encourage them to go to a public health center by issuing a preliminary visa and enabling them to subscribe to health insurance,” he added.
J. S. Shin (email@example.com)