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(4th LD) S. Korea on high alert over further spread of virus, cases unchanged at 27

All News 15:28 February 10, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info on latest 2 confirmed cases in paras 3-8)

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Monday it is working to contain the new coronavirus by blocking arrivals from overseas and enhancing quarantine efforts as the country's confirmed cases remains unchanged at 27.

The number of those tested for the coronavirus reached 2,776 as of early Monday, with 1,940 of them testing negative, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The KCDC said a total of 809 people are in quarantine and will be checked for the coronavirus.

A thermal scanner is set up at the National Assembly in Seoul on Feb. 10, 2020, to check arriving people's body temperatures as part of measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus originating in China. Anyone with his or her fever rising to 37.5 C or higher is prohibited from entering parliament. (Yonhap)

The KCDC said the two latest confirmed patients of the novel coronavirus have not visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak, or the surrounding Hubei Province.

The KCDC said the country's 26th and 27th cases -- a 51-year-old South Korean man and a 37-year-old Chinese woman, respectively -- stayed in China's Guangdong Province for three months before returning here on Jan. 31 via Macao.

The KCDC said it will not expand the entry ban to Guangdong Province as the area is not considered as dangerous as Hubei.

The couple had not visited a hospital or market during their stay in China, nor do they have any memory of being in contact with any confirmed patients.

The KCDC also confirmed that neither of them were screened upon their arrival here, as their flight stopped over at Macao.

"Neither Macao nor Hong Kong has yet been designated as a contaminated area," said Jung Eun-kyeong, the head of the KCDC. "The two people also did not show any fever nor report that they have any related symptoms."

Of the confirmed cases, 24 patients were receiving treatment at local hospitals, with one more patient set to be discharged from a hospital later in the day.

The patient would be the fourth coronavirus-infected patient in the country to fully recover and be released from a hospital, the KCDC said. He has tested negative for the virus two consecutive times.

The soon-to-be discharged patient -- also the country's 11th confirmed case -- did not travel outside of the country, the KCDC said. He is a family member of the sixth confirmed case who dined with the third coronavirus patient who was asymptomatic upon arrival from China.

Amid the rapid spread of the virus here, the health authorities said they will temporarily ban the entry of cruise ships seeking to dock at seaports here as part of efforts to put adequate safeguards in communities.

The Seoul government canceled the entry of two cruise ships that were planning to enter the southern port city of Busan on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Other cruise ships that are planning to dock at Busan on Feb. 23 and Feb. 27, and on the southern resort island of Jeju on Feb. 27 will also be banned, he said.

A visitor gives a paper bag containing food to a police officer at the Gwangju 21st Century Hospital in the southwestern city of Gwangju on Feb. 10, 2020. The hospital had been in quarantine since Feb. 5, when a patient infected with the new coronavirus is known to have been there. (Yonhap)

"So far, the containment of the virus has gone relatively well, but the risks at home and abroad are increasing," said Kim Gang-lip, deputy head of the central disaster headquarters. "It is not easy to curb the rapid spread, as the virus's infectivity is so high."

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 for potential cases.

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.

Meanwhile, the country said that three of its nationals in mainland China have been confirmed to be infected with the new coronavirus.

The three members of a family staying in China's northeastern province of Shandong have tested positive for the new strain of virus, according to the Seoul government.

It marks the first time for South Korean nationals staying in mainland China to be confirmed to be diagnosed with the virus infection that has taken more than 900 lives there.

The Seoul government said it plans to provide a mobile application to entrants from China starting Wednesday, which will be available in English and Chinese. The application, which can be downloaded on smartphones, will help monitor the entrants' health conditions, it said.

khj@yna.co.kr
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