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(4th LD) S. Korea reports 1st confirmed China coronavirus case, raises alert level

All Headlines 18:15 January 20, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 6)

SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Monday reported the first confirmed case of the China coronavirus amid concerns that a pneumonia-like illness is set to spread across China and Asia.

A Chinese woman who arrived at Incheon International Airport on China Southern Airlines flight CZ6079 at 12:11 p.m. Sunday has tested positive for the virus, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). Upon arrival, the woman was running a fever, experiencing respiratory problems and other symptoms, KCDC said.

"She tested positive in the pancoronavirus polymerase chain reaction test that checks a person's DNA," the country's public health and safety agency said.

A quarantine official (R) checks passengers arriving at South Korea's Incheon International Airport for signs of fever and other symptoms in this file photo taken on Jan. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

The 35-year-old resident arrived from the Chinese central city of Wuhan in Hubei Province -- where the virus appears to have originated -- on Sunday while en route to Japan in tune with the Lunar New Year holiday this week.

The patient has since been quarantined at a designated isolation ward in Incheon, west of Seoul, for treatment after being detected during the quarantine inspection process at the airport.

The agency said the cabin crew on the plane and the other passengers are being monitored for any symptoms, with 14 people being checked by medical personnel. Three other people who were placed in quarantine as a precautionary measure all tested negative for the pancoronavirus and were released.

The agency said it has elevated the country's infectious disease alert level by one notch from "blue" to "yellow" and ordered local governments to strengthen monitoring.

KCDC strongly advised people who visited China showing symptoms like fever and shortness of breath to visit nearby clinics or hospitals so they can be checked.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun instructed his Cabinet to take all possible countermeasures to contain the spread of the virus, according to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Chung ordered Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo and the chief of the KCDC to completely quarantine and treat the patient after being briefed by Park on the situation, the office said.

"Prime Minister Chung ordered that epidemiological investigations be quickly and thoroughly conducted to verify the movement and contact routes of the patient and contain the spread of the infectious disease," the PMO said.

The prime minister also instructed his Cabinet to take all countermeasures in accordance with the government's manual and to make swift and transparent disclosures of all relevant information to help ease public anxiety.

Seoul reported a suspected case earlier in the month, but that person was released after tests showed she was not infected with the same virus spreading in China.

The Beijing government has reported a total of 201 infected patients, with the death toll at three. There have been two pneumonia-like cases in Thailand and a single case in Japan.

Beijing has said the new strain of the coronavirus is not contagious between people, but the World Health Organization (WHO) is not ruling out person-to-person transmission under certain conditions, the center said.

sam@yna.co.kr
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