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(5th LD) S. Korea reports 1 more case of novel coronavirus, total now at 29

National 17:31 February 16, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with latest numbers in paras 10-11; CORRECTS 7th para)
By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Feb. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported another confirmed case of the new coronavirus Sunday, involving an 82-year-old man with no record of overseas travel, bringing the total to 29 after a five-day lull in new cases.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said the new patient tested positive for the virus after visiting Korea University Anam Hospital in Seoul with a heart problem and is currently quarantined at Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul, one of the facilities designated by the state for the treatment of the virus.

The patient, who is in a stable condition, was found to have visited two other medical clinics before visiting the university hospital, officials said, adding that quarantine and disinfecting efforts are under way for the clinics.

The KCDC said he didn't go to a separate screening clinic for the virus since he had no symptoms of fever or respiratory problems upon his visit to the Anam hospital's emergency room. However, doctors there ran the coronavirus test after finding out that he had pneumonia.

The emergency room of the Korea University hospital is currently closed, according to the KCDC.

Local health authorities shut down the emergency room of Korea University Anam Hospital in Seoul on Feb. 16, 2020, following a visit by the country's 29th coronavirus patient. (Yonhap)

Common symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, sore throat and breathing difficulties, with more acute cases involving chills and muscle pain and severe cases developing into pneumonia.

The KCDC said the government is considering running coronavirus tests on some pneumonia patients hospitalized across the country in the coming days.

The KCDC believes that the latest patient, who is also the country's oldest individual to be infected by the virus, had no contact with the country's other virus-confirmed patients at this moment, adding that health authorities are still investigating where and when he contracted the virus.

This is South Korea's first novel coronavirus case since Tuesday, when the country reported its 28th COVID-19 infection after a 30-year-old Chinese woman tested positive for the virus on Monday.

The number of people being checked for the virus under quarantine came to 485 as of late Sunday, the KCDC said in a statement.

South Korea has tested a total of 8,132 people for the virus since Jan. 3, with 7,647 testing negative.

The country has so far decided to release nine patients who have recovered from the virus from quarantine, with eight of them already discharged from their hospitals. One patient, a 47-year-old man -- the country's 22nd case -- will be discharged from his hospital on Monday, health authorities said.

Officials at Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul, where South Korea's 29th coronavirus patient has been hospitalized, check visitors for fever to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on Feb. 16, 2020. (Yonhap)

The KCDC said the 20 patients currently being treated for the virus at hospitals are in a stable condition, although one is receiving oxygen therapy for pneumonia but is not in a severe condition, it added.

Among the 28 cases -- 15 men and 13 women -- that were confirmed as of Saturday, 16 contracted the virus outside South Korea, according to KCDC, while 10 did so here. Health authorities are currently investigating the transmission routes of two cases.

Of the 28 patients, 22 were South Koreans, with the rest being Chinese nationals. Eighteen were found to have symptoms of pneumonia after they were hospitalized. By age, eight of them were in their 50s.

There have been no cases of human-to-human transmission from asymptomatic patients, according to KCDC, adding that the virus' average incubation period for domestically infected patients was 4.1 days.

Jung Eun-kyeong, head of KCDC, said the country now has to focus on preventing the spread of the coronavirus at medical institutions and in regional communities.

"Coronavirus can spread fast even though an infected person has mild symptoms," Jung said. "There is still a possibility that the virus can spread widely from medical institutions where there are many elderly and sick patients."

Jung said health authorities are keeping close tabs on Japan, where coronavirus patients have been reported across the country, from the northern prefecture of Hokkaido to the southern-most island of Okinawa.

As of Saturday, Japan has confirmed 41 coronavirus cases on its soil.

South Korea started enforcing strict quarantine screening against entrants from Hong Kong and Macao, in addition to mainland China, on Wednesday.

Passengers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao are now required to use separate arrival counters at international airports across the country and must write a special quarantine report, filling out a health questionnaire to check whether they have a fever or respiratory problems.

In this file photo taken on Feb. 13, 2020, South Korea's health authorities disinfect seats at a gymnasium in Suwon, south of Seoul, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Yonhap)

Earlier in the day, the government released the second group of 334 South Koreans it evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, following a two-week quarantine after they have all tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

The evacuees were airlifted out of the central Chinese city of Wuhan on South Korea's second special chartered flight and arrived in the country on Feb. 1.

The first group of 366 evacuees, who arrived in South Korea on Jan. 31, were released from quarantine and returned home on Saturday.

kdon@yna.co.kr
(END)

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