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(2nd LD) S. Korea back on alert over community transmission, 1 more virus case brings total to 30

All News 12:05 February 17, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; UPDATES with more details in paras 3, 6, 9-10)

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Monday identified another case of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 30, with the latest two cases prodding the health authorities to remain alert over community transmission.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the country's latest patient is the 68-year-old wife of the patient in the 29th case who tested positive for the virus Sunday.

The 82-year-old man is known not to have been in contact with the country's other virus-confirmed patients or recently traveled abroad. He had volunteered to transport lunch boxes to elderly people living alone and to senior centers through a regional welfare organization and was only diagnosed with the illness when he visited a hospital after visiting two clinics and a hospital.

The KCDC said focus should be now placed on stemming additional community transmission as it struggles to find out how the couple contracted the virus.

The authorities said they need to check the movements of the couple in more detail before determining how they have been infected through unknown routes.

Quarantine workers in protective suits and masks disinfect a library in Seongdong Ward in Seoul on Feb. 16, 2020, in this photo provided by the ward office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

In a related move, the country is considering testing those who suffer from pneumonia due to unknown causes for the potential COVID-19 virus at the discretion of medical personnel.

South Korea also said it plans to greatly increase the number of COVID-19 tests it can conduct on a daily basis from the current 5,000 to 10,000 by the end of the month so as to better identify and isolate infected people.

As part of its ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it has called on all 1,470 convalescent hospitals in the country to bar all workers who have traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the current outbreak, from working and to screen all caregivers who look after patients for travel abroad and symptoms so they do not inadvertently infect people who are in poor health.

The country said earlier it will take extra steps to keep close tabs on Chinese students who are enrolled in South Korean schools, with all local educational institutions to take charge of such people and report any signs of illness.

It said that South Korean nationals who are currently on a cruise ship in Japan and allowed to return home after being screened by Japanese authorities will still be required to remain in mandatory quarantine for two weeks after arrival as a precautionary move.

The number of people being checked for the virus and under quarantine came to 408 as of early Monday. South Korea has screened 8,171 people for COVID-19 since Jan. 3, with 7,733 testing negative and nine people having been discharged from quarantine after making full recoveries.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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