South Korea, criticized for coronavirus outbreak response, will limit information about infected patients

South Korean health authorities have been actively using personal information to track patients and their contacts

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.

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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.

A worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at a karaoke in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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.

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Details about the places that patients visited before testing positive are posted online and shared through smartphone alerts to others.

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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.”

A men wearing face mask walks along the Han river at a park in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Some people have used the information to identify the patients and have publicly condemned them for moving around while sick.

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A 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.

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