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Virus from relapse cases not highly infectious: KCDC

National 16:17 April 22, 2020

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's health authorities said Wednesday the novel coronavirus detected from the country's relapse cases appears to be not very infectious or transmissible.

Of the 39 culture tests using samples collected from people who retested positive for COVID-19 after making full recoveries, six were completed and all tested negative for the novel coronavirus, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

"Although their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were positive, they tested negative after being cultivated in isolation, meaning the viruses from relapse cases have very low or no infectious power," KCDC chief Jeong Eun-kyeong said.

Asked whether COVID-19 patients should be released from quarantine based on results from culture tests instead of PCR tests, Jeong said such method lacks effectiveness.

This file photo taken on April 20, 2020, shows medical workers at Busan Medical Center in Busan collecting a sample for virus tests. (Yonhap)

"Most countries decide on the release of a patient using PCR test results," she said. "Culture tests take two weeks or more and they require lots of resources, so it is not realistic to use them to determine whether to release a patient."

Jeong said health authorities are still studying how they should interpret cases that test positive for COVID-19 again in PCR tests after being released from quarantine. Some experts have suggested that test kits are sensitive enough to pick up dead virus particles.

After reviewing testing results, Jeong said the KCDC will reinforce its guidelines on releasing virus patients. With a rising number of relapse cases in the country, the KCDC previously recommended cured patients to self-quarantine for 14 days after they were discharged from hospitals.

South Korea has reported 207 relapse cases of COVID-19.


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