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(LEAD) S. Korea sees no infection risk from relapse cases

All News 14:26 May 18, 2020

(ATTN: REWRITES lead; UPDATES with more info throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean health authorities said Monday they will ease tight quarantine measures for patients who re-tested positive for the new coronavirus as they did not find any evidence that such patients pose the risk of infecting others.

Coronavirus relapse cases have been a headache for public health authorities here in their battle against the pandemic. So far, the country has reported 447 such cases, or 4.5 percent of the country's total caseload of 11,065.

Local health experts said last month that traces of inactivated virus fragments appear to have been detected in such cases, refuting theories of reactivation or reinfection of the virus.

This photo, taken on May 14, 2020, shows medical workers working at an outdoor COVID-19 testing center at Seoul Medical Center. (Yonhap)

The government said those who recover from the illness will be allowed to return to their routines starting Tuesday without the need to take additional virus tests or to be placed under quarantine.

"There have been no secondary infections from people who have contacted the relapsed patients so far," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, said in a briefing. "We have not found evidence that those cases are contagious."

Health authorities previously reinforced guidelines on discharging COVID-19 patients due to a rise in relapse cases.

In April, they recommended cured patients to self-quarantine for 14 days after being discharged from hospital. Last week, the guidelines were revised to reduce the period to seven days.

Yoon also noted the government will not use the term "relapse" as cured virus patients who re-tested positive for the virus do not pose the risk of infecting others.

Health authorities are looking into whether such people are immune to the coronavirus and how long such immunity could last.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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