Another evacuee confirmed to be infected, total now at 24

February 7, 2020

 South Korea on Friday confirmed another case of novel coronavirus infection, bringing the total here to 24, and the latest one is a South Korean airlifted from the Chinese city of Wuhan last week.

After arriving here on a chartered plane last Friday, the 28-year-old South Korean man had been in quarantine at a state-run facility in Asan in central South Korea and started to suffer from a sore throat, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The agency said the patient was checked several times after arrival with all tests coming up negative, before he started to show mild symptoms Tuesday.

The patient was transferred to a Seoul hospital, where he is receiving treatment.

The public health authorities said the latest patient had gone on a business trip to China, along with the country’s 13th infected patient who was also evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak. They were evacuated on the same chartered flight. South Korea airlifted 701 its citizens from the city.

A decontamination team from Songpa Ward in southwestern Seoul disinfects a classroom in their district on Feb. 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

A decontamination team from Songpa Ward in southwestern Seoul disinfects a classroom in their district on Feb. 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

The KCDC said a total of 1,386 people are judged to have been in contact with infected patients, with 1,083 people in self-quarantine.

One of those in self-quarantine includes a South Korean national who arrived in the country on Thursday after visiting Wuhan in the last 14 days. He showed no signs of being sick when he was checked by quarantine officials at the airport but was advised to stay confined as a precautionary measure.

Since Jan. 3, the country has tested 1,352 people for the new coronavirus, 1,001 of whom tested negative. A total of 327 people are in isolation for suspected infection.

Of all infection cases in the country, 20 are South Korean nationals and the rest are Chinese citizens. Of the total, eight patients had never been abroad and were contaminated in the country, with 11 having visited China and five making trips to Thailand, Singapore or Japan.

South Korea said it is likely to release its third fully recovered novel coronavirus patient soon. According to Seoul University Hospital, one of its four coronavirus-infected patients is being considered for discharge.

The patient would be the third in the country to fully recover and be released from a hospital. The two previous patients were released from hospitals on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

As part of the stepped up response for fighting the new coronavirus and stemming its further spread, the country has expanded the scope of its checks to anyone who has visited any part of China and shows symptoms like an elevated temperature or respiratory issues.

They are classified as a “suspected case” and are subject to a medical check, according to the KCDC. People who are suffering from pneumonia brought on by unknown causes can also be examined for the virus.

Previously, South Korea only checked people who felt sick within 14 days of returning from Hubei.

Later in the day, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government is considering whether to take additional measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“Considering the incubation period, now may be a very important watershed,” he said in a meeting with infectious disease experts.

He added that the government is considering whether it may have to “make critical decisions on the future direction (of fighting the disease) during a government meeting this Sunday.”

Chung plans to preside over a meeting with related ministers on the day, during which the government is expected to discuss options including raising the national epidemic alert level and expanding its entry ban to include arrivals from more Chinese regions and other countries.

South Korea currently bars foreigners who visited or stayed in Hubei, where Wuhan is located, in the previous two weeks.

On Friday, a quick test for the new coronavirus became available at 124 public health centers across the country in the latest effort to stem further spread of the disease here, according to the health ministry.

Those who have been to China in the last 14 days and feel ill can visit the health centers for a check-up. In addition, doctors at the centers can at their own discretion test a person even if he or she has not been to China recently.

The ministry said for now, the country can carry out 3,000 tests on a daily basis, although priority will be placed on people who have been abroad and those with acute signs of illness.

All costs associated with the tests will be covered by the state, it added.