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(3rd LD) People undergoing coronavirus tests in S. Korea jump to 620, confirmed cases unchanged at 24

All News 14:14 February 08, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 3-4)

SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- The number of people in South Korea held in quarantine and undergoing coronavirus tests jumped nearly twofold to 620 people Saturday, as the number of confirmed cases here remains unchanged at 24.

The country's health protection agency said compared with Friday 293 more people are being checked as Seoul has expanded the scope of people who can be tested for the virus that is thought to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

It said that 1,420 people who have come in contact with infected people have been identified and quarantined for monitoring, with 1,090 placed in self-isolation. The total is up from 1,386 people who were tallied the day before, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The KCDC said the country has tested 1,701 people for the new coronavirus since Jan. 3, 1,057 of whom have tested negative.

Of all the people confirmed to have contracted the virus here, two who have fully recovered have been released. The total now in quarantine and undergoing treatment stands at 22, with health authorities stressing that all are in stable condition, with at least one person being reviewed by medical experts and set to be discharged soon.

This photo provided by Goyang City, northeast of Seoul, on Feb. 20, 2020, shows a public library being disinfected by a quarantine worker. (Yonhap)

Of the confirmed cases in the country, eight contracted the illness here likely through person-to-person transmission, 11 recently visited China, and five visited Singapore, Thailand and Japan. Four of the total treated for the virus were Chinese nationals, with the rest being South Korean.

South Korea, which reported its first confirmed case on Jan. 20, has stepped up its response to controlling the spread of the new coronavirus. 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.

These people are classified as "suspected cases" 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.

South Korea also bars entry to 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 further stem the spread of the disease here.

Those who have been to China in the last 14 days and feel ill can visit 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 health ministry here said for now, the country can carry out some 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. The goal is to conduct at least 5,000 tests per day.

All costs associated with the tests will be covered by the state, with Seoul saying it will provide 1.23 million won (US$1,030) per month to a four-person family with a member in quarantine.

The health ministry said that the monthly living expenses allowance will be provided to anyone who has been in quarantine for more than 14 days, with foreign nationals also eligible for support. It said the move is to compensate people who cooperate with the ongoing effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

If a person without a family is quarantined, the government said it will provide 454,900 won if that person has been in isolation for two weeks. The total amount will be adjusted to reflect the size of the family and the period a person is in quarantine. The compensation rules apply to those that are in self-quarantine as well.

The ministry, however, said those that received paid leave from their companies will not be able to apply for the compensation pay.

Passengers and airline crew members wearing masks approach a quarantine checkpoint at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Jan. 28, 2020, in this file photo. (Yonhap)

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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