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S. Korea needs to take new preventive approach to contain coronavirus: experts

All News 13:52 February 20, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea needs to take a new preventive approach to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, a group of infectious disease experts here said Thursday, amid rising fears of community spread.

South Korea reported 31 new cases of the new coronavirus earlier in the day, raising the total number of infections here to 82, with most new cases in the southeastern city of Daegu.

"In this kind of situation, where community spread of the virus appears to be happening, the authorities need to fix its preventive systems, and utilize resources of public medical institutions efficiently," said Oh Myoung-don, a Seoul National University hospital doctor who leads a clinical committee for the infectious disease.

"So far, the government has taken a conservative preventive strategy, which is to identify patients early and put them in quarantine, but now, we are in the phase of focusing on slowing the pace of the virus spread," Oh added.

Oh Myoung-don, a Seoul National University hospital doctor who heads a clinical committee for the novel coronavirus, speaks at a press meeting in Seoul on Feb. 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

He also said the country needs to beef up its efforts to develop vaccines and treatments for the new coronavirus, citing that countries like China and the United States are moving ahead.

The clinical committee said the novel coronavirus is highly contagious.

"If you look at cases of domestic patients, they emitted large amounts of the virus even when they had early symptoms of the novel coronavirus infection," said Bang Ji-hwan, a doctor on the committee. "It's possible that the virus can spread locally before an infected person receives coronavirus tests."

The clinical committee said that the fatality rate of the novel coronavirus appears to be lower than the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) but higher than H1N1 flu.

Citing data from China, the epicenter of the outbreak, the committee said the current fatality rate for patients in their 60s is 3.6 percent, although those under 40 was less than 0.5 percent.

So far, more than 2,000 people have been killed due to the novel coronavirus, with over 74,000 infected globally. South Korea has yet to report a death from the novel coronavirus.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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