(ATTN: REWRITES headline, lead; UPDATES with more info from 2nd para; TRIMS throughout)
SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- More people in South Korea underwent tests for the new coronavirus on Saturday as health authorities have expanded the scope of people subject to virus checks, with the number of confirmed cases remaining at 24.
South Korea has tested 2,097 people for the new virus as of Saturday, up from 1,352 tallied the previous day, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The data came as health authorities expanded the scope of people subject to the test for the contagious virus and allowed more medical centers to conduct the tests starting on Friday.
Despite the rise in people undergoing tests, the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus here has remained unchanged at 24. Of them, two patients have been released after full recovery so far.
Currently, those who visited China are subject to virus tests if they have developed fever or symptoms of respiratory diseases in the past two weeks. People can be examined if they visited countries where outbreaks have been reported other than China.
Previously, the tests were conducted only on travelers who had respiratory symptoms after visiting China's Hubei province, where Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, is located. People who visited other areas in China were checked only when they suffered from pneumonia.
As of Saturday, the number of people in South Korea placed in quarantine after being tested reached 939. So far, 1,134 people have tested negative.
The KCDC said two patients, both Korean nationals in their 50s, have mostly recovered, though there are no patients scheduled to be discharged later in the day.
Health authorities said all other patients under treatment are in stable condition.
Of the 24 confirmed cases, eight people contracted the flu-like illness likely through person-to-person transmissions. Eleven people visited China, while five traveled to Singapore, Thailand and Japan.
South Korea, which reported its first confirmed case on Jan. 20, has stepped up its efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
The country began to bar the entry of foreigners who visited or stayed in the Hubei province in the past 14 days on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Friday that the government is considering whether to take additional measures to stop the spread of the virus. He said the government may have to make "critical" decisions during a meeting on Sunday.
The government is also pushing to send a third evacuation flight to bring home hundreds of its people from virus-hit Wuhan. It sent two chartered flights to Wuhan last month to evacuate some 700 South Koreans in the city under lockdown.
Meanwhile, the government said costs associated with the tests will be covered by the state in an effort to compensate people who cooperate with the quarantine efforts.
Seoul plans to provide 1.23 million won (US$1,030) per month to a four-person family in cases where a person has been in quarantine for more than 14 days. Foreign nationals are also eligible for support.
The total amount in support will be adjusted by reflecting the size of the family and quarantine period. The compensation rules apply to those that are in self-quarantine as well.
The ministry, however, said those who receive paid leave from their companies will not be able to apply for the compensation pay.
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