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(4th LD) S. Korea reports 2 more new coronavirus cases, total now at 6

All News 22:23 January 30, 2020

(ATTN: CLARIFIES details in paras 2-9; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Thursday reported two more cases of the new coronavirus, with one believed to be the country's first human-to-human transmission, bringing the total number of people infected here to six.

Of the two, one, a 32-year-old man, recently returned from a business trip to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the latest outbreak, but the other was presumed to be potentially the country's first human transmission case of the novel virus, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The center said that the 56-year-old man has been subject to tight inspection as he dined at a restaurant in southern Seoul that the country's third coronavirus-infected patient visited.

A medical staff member wearing a protective suit and mask sits outside a public health clinic in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Jan. 30, 2020, as the country is on heightened alert to counter the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. (Yonhap)

It said more details will be unveiled later as to whether the case can be classified as human transmission or not.

The third confirmed case involves a 54-year-old who returned from China last week without showing symptoms. He was not restricted from moving about for days before he started to feel ill, during which time he moved freely through neighborhoods in Seoul and Ilsan, just northwest of the capital, with a subsequent test only confirming he was infected with the new virus strain on Sunday.

The KCDC said that because the man in the latest case did not know he was infected, he too may have inadvertently spread the illness.

The two latest patients were immediately quarantined, it said.

The state agency said that it is in the process of determining who the two patients met in the past few days so they can be contacted and checked for ill health.

Human-to-human infection has been a grave source of concern because it can easily lead to more cases, and many local medical experts are predicting that such a development is likely, with countries like Germany, Japan and Vietnam all reporting coronavirus-infected patients who have not been to Wuhan or China in recent weeks getting sick.

From Jan. 3 onward, the KCDC said that it had closely checked 244 people for signs of the illness, with 199 having been cleared.

Common symptoms of the coronavirus, thought to have originated in Wuhan, central China, include fever, sore throat and breathing difficulties, with more acute cases involving chills and muscle pain.

The public health protection agency said earlier that it has developed a test procedure that can reduce the time it takes to determine if a person has been infected with the new coronavirus strain from the current 24 hours to just six.

The new method will be used initially by 18 public health centers on Friday and then be provided to civilian clinics and hospitals in early February, it added.

China, meanwhile, has confirmed 170 deaths and 7,711 people infected with the virus as of early Thursday.

Outside of China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, France, Germany, Canada and the United States have confirmed cases of the new virus. Worldwide data showed 7,808 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

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