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(4th LD) S. Korea reports 12th new coronavirus case, 70 potential cases under observation

All News 16:40 February 01, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; TRIMS throughout)

SEOUL, Feb. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Saturday identified its 12th case of the novel coronavirus and was monitoring 70 potential cases as the country braces for further spread of the deadly virus here amid concerns over person-to-person transmission.

The latest case involves a 49-year-old Chinese man who works as a tour guide in Japan and arrived here on Jan. 19 through Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The KCDC said the man was acquainted with a Japanese person infected with the virus in his country, indicating that he may constitute a human transmission case. The Japanese acquaintance had urged the man to go to a hospital to be checked, it added.

The public health agency said it is tracking people who have might have been in contact with the patient.

Since Jan. 3, 371 people had been monitored for potential contagion, 289 of whom turned out not to be infected.

The KCDC said 460 people who had been in close proximity to virus-infected patients are being monitored carefully.

A South Korean who arrived from Wuhan, China, on a chartered flight is taken to a hospital in Seoul on Feb. 1, 2020, after showing signs of illness on arrival at Gimpo International Airport. (Yonhap)

South Korea confirmed its first coronavirus case on Jan. 20, with the second one being reported on Jan. 24, followed by one each on Sunday and Monday. The country said two more cases were recorded Thursday, with five being announced Friday.

Of the total, five cases are presumed to involve human transmission as the patients had not been to China recently.

This kind of transmission is worrisome as people may not know they have contracted the illness, even if they have symptoms, and can go about contaminating large numbers of people unwittingly.

Common signs of infection include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome and even lead to death.

The health authorities are tracing the steps of the confirmed patients, who were asymptomatic upon entering the country, so it can send teams to decontaminate the areas they visited.

The KCDC said it has not been able to contact 50 Koreans who had returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the presumed origin of the illness.

The number of passengers who flew in from Wuhan has been tallied at 2,991, with Korean nationals making up 1,085 as of Thursday; 398 foreigners are still thought to be in the country.

The agency said of the 18 Koreans sent to hospitals after being airlifted from Wuhan on Friday, 11 were shown to not be infected, while seven are still being checked.

The total number of people brought in on the first airlift was 368. The second flight carried 333 people, seven of whom were taken to a hospital for further checks.

The public health authorities said the country is struggling to contain the further spread of the new virus and urged citizens to do their part with respect to personal hygiene.

The agency urged those who have been to China in the last 14 days to quarantine themselves.

The KCDC, meanwhile, said that as of early Saturday, the virus has killed 259 people and infected around 12,000 people worldwide.

A staff member at Seoul National University Hospital in Bundang, south of Seoul, wearing a full protective suit waits to check people as they enter the building on Jan. 29, 2020. (Yonhap)

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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