South Korea rolls out mass testing for 70,000 prisoners and staff


FILE PHOTO: A man undergoes coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a coronavirus testing site which is temporarily set up in front of a railway station on Christmas day in Seoul, South Korea, December 25, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea rolled out mass testing for 52 prisons in the country after a massive prison outbreak and may extend flight suspensions from Britain in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus cases, the health minister said on Wednesday.

Over half of the total 2,292 inmates and personnel in a prison in southeastern Seoul were tested positive after a first cluster infection was reported within the prison last month, Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, told a briefing.

The justice ministry is separating the confirmed inmates by transferring them to a designated hospital, said Yoon.

Authorities will complete mass testing on some 70,000 prison inmates and staff nationwide, as the number of confirmed cases linked to prisons throughout the country surged to 1,191.

The health authorities will also decide whether to extend flight suspensions from Britain after at least 12 cases of a new strain of the coronavirus had been found, said Yoon.

The country had already extended a ban on direct flights from Britain until Jan. 7, and required any passengers arriving from that country or South Africa to undergo testing before departure.

The country reported 840 new cases as of midnight on Tuesday, a slight uptick from 1,029 a day before, bringing the national tally to 65,818 infections with 1,027 deaths.

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus in South Korea passed 1,000 on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Michael Perry)

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