[nexa] 'More scary than coronavirus': South Korea's health alerts expose private lives | World news | The Guardian

Alberto Cammozzo ac+nexa at zeromx.net
Fri Mar 6 08:02:02 CET 2020


As the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea exceeded 6,000 this week, there was a rise, too, in complaints about information overload in the form of emergency virus text alerts that have included embarrassing revelations about infected people’s private lives.

Health authorities and district offices across the country are sending “safety guidance texts” from early morning to late at night, reminding people to wash their hands thoroughly and not to touch their faces with unwashed hands.

But for many people, the texts – while intended as a public health service – are fuelling social stigma and in some cases, leading to speculation over extra-marital affairs.

Much of the criticism centres on messages that trace the movements of people who have recently been diagnosed with the virus.

“A woman in her 60s has just tested positive,” reads a typical text, “Click on the link for the places she visited before she was hospitalised,” it adds. Clicking on the link takes the user to the website of a district office that lists the places the patient had visited before testing positive.

This avalanche of information has included some embarrassing revelations.

One involved a man in his 50s who returned from Wuhan province in China – where the outbreak started – with his 30-year-old secretary. Both were infected in the early days of the epidemic.

In another case, reported by the BBC, one alert said a man contracted the virus from an instructor during a sexual harassment class.

As South Korean media pored over their movements, citizens looked on with a mixture of horror and fascination as their private lives were laid bare, leading to speculation that they were having an affair and that the secretary had undergone plastic surgery.

In another text that captured people’s imagination, a woman in her 60s reportedly went to work as normal, attended a wedding and had lunch at a hotel buffet restaurant with friends, despite having been recently hospitalised with injuries she said she had sustained in a car accident.

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