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(7th LD) S. Korea adds 3 more virus cases for 27 total, no entry ban expansion

All Headlines 21:05 February 09, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, paras 4-7 with health minister's briefing)

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Sunday confirmed three infection cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the total here to 27, and said that it will not expand the entry ban to additional regions of China or other countries.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said a 51-year-old South Korean man and a 37-year-old Chinese woman, who returned here after staying in China's Guangdong province from November to Jan. 31, have tested positive for the virus.

Another South Korean woman, aged 73, was also confirmed to be infected earlier in the day. She is a family member of the couple.

Travel agency counters on the third floor of Terminal 1 at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, remain deserted on Feb. 9, 2020, amid the coronavirus scare. (Yonhap)

In a move to stem further influx from overseas, South Korea said it will tighten quarantine checks on entrants from countries where intense community transmission of the new coronavirus has been reported.

South Korea also earlier said that it would consider banning the entry of foreigners from regions in China where many confirmed cases have been reported.

But Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said later that the government will take the expansion of the entry ban to other Chinese regions and countries off the table, saying that the current restriction will remain in place unless emergency situations arise.

"Without additional steps on the entry ban, we have achieved restrictions and scaling down on entrants as we have intended," Park said during a press briefing. "We will keep the current status unchanged until situations change fast."

The government said that it will advise its people against making nonessential overseas travel, including trips for the sake of sightseeing, as a way to block the flow of the virus from countries other than China.

On Sunday, 24 out of the country's 27 confirmed patients were receiving treatment at local hospitals as the country's fourth virus-infected patient was discharged from a hospital in the morning, the KCDC said.

The 55-year-old South Korean man returned from his visit to Wuhan on Jan. 20 and was diagnosed with the deadly virus on Jan. 27. He was the country's third case to fully recover from the virus and be discharged from a hospital. Two others left the hospital last week.

The first fully recovered person is a 55-year-old man who had visited China, while the second is a 35-year-old Chinese woman who had come from Wuhan.

The KCDC official expects more of the diagnosed people will be discharged as most of them have minor symptoms.

South Korea had tested a total of 2,571 people for the new virus as of 4 p.m. Sunday since Jan. 3, the KCDC said on its webpage, adding that it was checking 888 people for potential cases.

A few people walk on a street in Myeongdong in downtown Seoul on Feb. 8, 2020. The normally busy tourist district was nearly empty amid growing fears of the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

Since Friday, the country's health authorities have expanded the scope of people subject to the test for the contagious virus and have allowed more medical centers to conduct the tests.

The government said on Sunday that it will expand medical supplies to triple the number of daily tests on people for the new coronavirus to some 10,000 cases by the end of this month.

South Korea is maintaining a high level of vigilance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but the authorities said the current alert level, the third highest, will be maintained.

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

The country has expanded the scope of its checks to anyone who has visited any part of China and shown 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.

On Friday, a quick test for the epidemic 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 test a person at their own discretion even if he or she has not been to China recently.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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