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(3rd LD) S. Korea adds 1 more virus case, total at 28; Hong Kong, Macao arrivals to face enhanced quarantine

All News 15:03 February 11, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead with updated info; RESTRUCTURES throughout; ADDS photo; COMBINES with stories slugged coronavirus-travel advisory and strict quarantine screening-expansion)

SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Tuesday said it will apply strict quarantine screening to entrants from Hong Kong and Macao, in addition to those who arrive from mainland China, as the country confirmed one more case of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total here to 28.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said the 28th patient is a 30-year-old Chinese woman who is highly likely to be infected from the country's third confirmed case.

Workers disinfect a shopping mall in Seoul on Feb. 10, 2020, amid fears over the spreading new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

The strict screening measure, set to take effect Wednesday, comes after reports that the country's 26th and 27th confirmed cases stayed in China's Guangdong province for three months before returning here on Jan. 31 via Macao.

"The possibility of an inflow of coronavirus patients from such regions heightened as Hong Kong reported 36 confirmed cases and one death, and Macao reported 10 cases as of Monday," said Jung Eun-kyeong, the head of the KCDC.

Currently, entrants from China are asked to fill out health questionnaires to check whether they have a fever or respiratory problems.

Passengers from China are also required to use "China-only" arrival counters at airports for suspected symptoms of the new coronavirus and to write a special quarantine report, providing their mobile phone numbers and the address of their stay, and disclosing any visits to Hubei province -- the epicenter of the global outbreak -- in the past two weeks.

The KCDC also said four virus-infected patients have been released from hospitals fully recovered as of late Tuesday, with more discharged cases expected Wednesday.

The 28th patient had been in self-quarantine before testing positive for the new virus, the public health agency said.

She has not shown any symptoms of the coronavirus, and her doctor said she could even be considered for an immediate discharge.

In an effort to contain the virus that has rapidly spread across Asia, the Seoul government strongly advised its nationals to refrain from traveling to the six countries, other than China, with the most confirmed cases -- Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

"The measure is part of efforts to prevent the inflow of the novel coronavirus into the country through a third nation," Kim Gang-lip, deputy head of the central disaster headquarters, said during a regular press briefing earlier.

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)

On Sunday, WHO picked the six countries as possible places where the virus is spreading within communities.

The advisory was made by the disaster headquarters that is operated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and it is separate from a regular travel warning announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The foreign ministry currently maintains the second-highest level of "withdrawal recommendation" for China's Hubei province. It also applies the alert level of "restraint," the third highest in its four-tier travel warning system, for the entire country, including Hong Kong and Macao.

The public health authorities will also start providing travel information on countries with confirmed cases to local medical institutions and pharmacies later in the day in an effort to create stronger safeguards in communities.

The countries include Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macao, officials said, adding that Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia will soon be added to the list.

The number of people tested for the coronavirus had reached 3,629 as of early Tuesday, sharply up from 3,110 a day earlier, the KCDC said. Of the total, 2,736 have tested negative and another 865 people are currently in quarantine to be checked for the novel virus.

Disinfection work is carried out on a kindergarten van on Feb. 11, 2020. (Yonhap)

khj@yna.co.kr
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