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(6th LD) Virus angst escalates as S. Korea reports 5 more cases, total now 11

All News 20:52 January 31, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 3-5, 7, last 2 paras; ADDS bottom photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- Concerns are growing over further spread of the new coronavirus here, especially person-to-person transmission, as South Korea reported five more cases in just one day on Friday, bringing the total here to 11 despite stepped-up quarantine efforts.

Of the confirmed cases, four are presumed to be potentially human transmissions as they had not traveled to China and other nations recently.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the country's seventh case involves a 28-year-old South Korean man who visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and returned via the Chinese port city of Qingdao on Jan. 23.

He did not show any related symptoms upon arrival at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.

The patient complained of a mild cold three days later and visited a clinic Tuesday when he had a fever, at which time doctors checked him for the novel virus. The patient was quarantined immediately, with authorities saying he had contact with two family members only.

The eighth case involves a 62-year-old South Korean woman who visited Wuhan, and came home on Jan. 23.

The three other patients confirmed to be infected are presumed to be classifiable as person-to-person transmission cases, as they have not visited China recently, it said.

The ninth patient is an acquaintance of the country's fifth coronavirus patient, who returned from China on Friday, and one of the 10 people that the person had contacted with.

A notice placed on the entrance of a community health service center in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Jan. 30, 2020, asks people who have been to China recently to use a separate entrance as a safety precaution to avoid transmission. (Yonhap)

As to the 10th and 11th patients, the KCDC said they did not meet anyone recently from China but are family members of the 55-year-old Korean who was diagnosed with the virus on Thursday. That person, who is the country's sixth confirmed infection case and also did not travel outside the country, is known to have dined with the third coronavirus patient who was asymptomatic upon arrival and was allowed to move about freely for days, meeting 95 people in total before he was quarantined over the weekend.

The KCDC said more detailed information on the latest infected cases will be released later.

Seoul has tightened its quarantine rules and started to check everyone that has returned from Wuhan. The country has set up a total of 503 screening clinics across the country so people feeling ill can visit and get checked by experts, who can give a preliminary assessment as to whether the person has been infected with the novel coronavirus based on symptoms. The stations have been supplied with portable X-ray machines that can check for signs of pneumonia.

Jung Eun-kyeongm the head of the KCDC said it is critical to find as quickly as possible people who unknowingly became infected with the virus and that this is the reason why the screening stations have been set up.

Common symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, sore throat and breathing difficulties, with more acute cases involving chills and muscle pain and severe cases developing into pneumonia.

The country's health authorities said 368 South Koreans were brought back from Wuhan, and 18 were moved to hospitals for monitoring as they showed symptoms, such as fever.

The evacuated nationals will be taken to public facilities and held for 14 days, during which time they will not be allowed out or allowed to meet visitors, they said.

The health ministry said that doctors at the sites will check them regularly, with all to be checked again before they are allowed to leave.

South Korea confirmed its first case of the new strain of coronavirus on Jan. 20. On Thursday, the country reported two more cases, with one believed to be potentially the country's first person-to-person transmission.

Worldwide, 9,805 cases have been reported as of early Friday, with 213 people dying from the illness so far.

Outside of China, which has 9,692 confirmed cases, the novel coronavirus has been discovered in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, as well as the United Arab Emirates, India, Australia, France, Germany, Finland, Canada and the United States.

People wearing masks pass by a screening clinic in Myeongdong, downtown Seoul, on Jan. 31, 2020, as South Korea broadens its efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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