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(2nd LD) S. Korea reports 15 more cases of novel coronavirus, total at 46

All Headlines 10:51 February 19, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 3-4, last 5 paras; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea confirmed 15 more cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections here to 46, amid growing concerns that the respiratory illness is spreading across the country despite tighter quarantine measures.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), 13 new patients reside in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul and adjacent areas. They are presumed to have contracted the illness via contact with a 61-year-old South Korean woman who was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus infection Tuesday.

The country's 31th patient, probably a coronavirus "super spreader," also lives in the city. She started to complain of a fever on Feb. 10 and was tested Monday at a local health center, after which she was sent to a hospital and placed in quarantine for treatment and monitoring.

The patient visited Seoul late last month, was treated at a hospital after a car accident and went about her everyday life in which she used public transportation.

The health authorities said that the 11-year-old daughter of the country's 20th patient who was confirmed to be infected on Feb. 5 tested positive for the illness, while a 77-year-old man has also been diagnosed with the virus, according to the KCDC. The man has not traveled abroad.

All newly infected people have been placed in quarantine and are undergoing treatment.

The number of people being checked for the virus and under quarantine came to 1,030 as of early Wednesday, up from 818 the day before the KCDC said in a release. South Korea has screened 10,411 people for COVID-19 since Jan. 3, with 9,335 testing negative and 12 people having been discharged from quarantine after making full recoveries.

The emergency center at Kyungpook National University Hospital in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, is temporarily closed on Feb. 19, 2020, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Yonhap)

The KCDC said Tuesday that the country is entering a "new phase" with some confirmed cases not linked to existing spreads, which means that those patients are judged to have contracted the COVID-19 virus without traveling abroad or coming into contact with other infected patients.

The public health agency admitted that it is not clear how some recent patients contracted the virus.

KCDC director Jung Eun-kyeong said in a press conference on Tuesday that the country needs to tighten quarantine controls over arrivals from abroad and self-quarantine rules, while coming up with countermeasures to prevent community spread, she said.

Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo told the National Assembly earlier that health authorities have been preparing for the possibility of community spread.

"The seeming lull in new confirmed cases last week can be seen as a transition period leading to a 'second peak' stage," the minister said.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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