South Korea’s first reported patient of the Chinese coronavirus’s omicron strain was allegedly indicted in recent days “for lying to health authorities” in an epidemiological survey associated with her November 2021 infection, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday.
Yonhap cited unnamed South Korean legal sources who provided the news outlet with an alleged account of the woman’s recent path to criminal indictment. The news outlet on April 1 detailed the series of events, writing:
The 40-something woman living in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, was charged without detention for allegedly violating the [South Korea] Infectious Disease Control Act by lying about her transportation use when questioned by local authorities after testing positive for omicron on November 25 .
The woman and her husband, a church pastor, had previously traveled to Nigeria before testing positive for the virus variant in South Korea.
She allegedly lied to authorities about taking a quarantine taxi after arriving at Incheon International Airport, when she was actually driven home by an acquaintance. The acquaintance’s wife and mother in law were later found to have caused a cluster infection at a large church.
South Korean police have previously indicted a number of citizens and residents of the country for allegedly committing similar acts of violation of the nation’s Infectious Disease Control Act during the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which began in March 2020.
Incheon police arrested a 24-year-old man in July 2020 “on charges of violating the law on prevention and control of infectious diseases, and sent the case to the prosecution saying he should be indicted,” Yonhap reported.
Police in the port city accused the man of failing to cooperate with the contact tracing efforts of local authorities and thus worsening a local outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus in Incheon at the time. The man allegedly told state-sponsored contact tracers — or people who trace the whereabouts of confirmed or suspected Chinese coronavirus patients — that he was unemployed at the time “and did not report that he taught at a cram school [tutoring facility] in Incheon,” according to Yonhap.
“Local health authorities, who were dubious of his report, asked the police to secure his mobile phone records, which delayed the tracing process that could have prevented additional infections,” the Seoul-based news agency revealed.
While reporting on South Korea’s anti-coronavirus effort in October 2020, the New York Times observed that police officers nationwide had, at the time, “asked prosecutors to indict 13 people accused of providing false information, including several who lied to epidemiological investigators about their health or the places they visited while potentially carrying the virus.”
The South Korean federal government has granted itself extraordinary powers to violate the privacy of individual citizens in the name of contact tracing during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
“In addition to making some personal data public, the authorities sometimes use it to send text messages to people whose cellular data history indicates they were in proximity to an infected person. Other than China, South Korea is virtually the only country in the world whose government has the power to collect such data at will during an epidemic,” the New York Times revealed in October 2020.
“In the initial desperate months of the pandemic, [South Korean] government websites uploaded a detailed sketch of each patient’s daily life until they were diagnosed and isolated. The government did not reveal patients’ names but sometimes released revealing data such as their addresses and employers,” the newspaper detailed.
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