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(6th LD) Confirmed virus cases unchanged at 27, 1 more patient released from quarantine

22:20 February 10, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; UPDATES with more details in paras 11-13)

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Monday it is working to contain the new coronavirus by blocking arrivals from overseas and enhancing quarantine efforts as the country's confirmed cases remains unchanged at 27.

The number of those tested for the coronavirus had reached 3,110 as of late Monday, with 2,552 testing negative, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The KCDC said 531 people are in quarantine and will be checked for the coronavirus.

A thermal scanner is set up at the National Assembly in Seoul on Feb. 10, 2020, to check the body temperature of people arriving there as part of measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, which originated in China. Anyone with a fever of 37.5 C or higher is prohibited from entering parliament. (Yonhap)

The KCDC said the two latest confirmed patients of the novel coronavirus have not visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak, or the surrounding Hubei Province.

The KCDC said the country's 26th and 27th cases -- a 51-year-old South Korean man and a 37-year-old Chinese woman, respectively -- stayed in China's Guangdong Province for three months before returning here on Jan. 31 via Macao.

The KCDC said it will not expand the entry ban to Guangdong Province as the area is not considered as dangerous as Hubei.

"The additional banning of entry from other dangerous regions in China will be decided after taking into consideration various data such as the number of new confirmed cases, increased speed (of the virus' spread) and the mortality rate of those regions," said Jung Eun-kyeong, the head of the KCDC.

The couple had not visited a hospital or market during their stay in China, nor do they have any memory of being in contact with any confirmed patients.

The KCDC also confirmed that neither of them were screened upon their arrival here, as their flight stopped over at Macao.

Jung Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gives a briefing on the domestic coronavirus outbreak at the government complex in the central city of Sejong on Feb. 10, 2020, with 27 people having contracted the virus in the country so far. (Yonhap)

"Neither Macao nor Hong Kong has yet been designated as a contaminated area," said Jung. "The two people also did not show any fever nor report that they have any related symptoms."

Of the confirmed cases, 23 people were receiving treatment at local hospitals, with one more patient released from quarantine, the KCDC said.

The 11th person to test positive for the virus is the fourth to be deemed as having recovered by doctors, the KCDC said.

He had been quarantined and treated at a Seoul hospital since being diagnosed with the virus on Jan. 31, and the decision to discharge him was made after he tested negative for the virus two consecutive times.

The patient did not travel outside of the country, the KCDC said. He is the son of the sixth confirmed patient who dined with the third coronavirus patient who was asymptomatic upon arrival from China. His mother is also in isolation after being infected with the coronavirus.

Amid the rapid spread of the virus here, the health authorities said they will temporarily ban the entry of cruise ships seeking to dock at seaports here as part of efforts to put in place adequate safeguards in communities.

The Seoul government canceled the entry of two cruise ships that were planning to enter the southern port city of Busan on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A cruise ship that had been planning to dock at Busan on Feb. 23 and at a port on the southern resort island of Jeju on Feb. 24, as well as another one that had intended to visit Busan on Feb. 24, will also be banned, it said.

"So far, the containment of the virus has gone relatively well, but the risks at home and abroad are increasing," said Kim Gang-lip, deputy head of the central disaster headquarters. "It is not easy to curb the rapid spread, as the virus's infectivity is so high."

A visitor gives a paper bag containing food to a police officer at the Gwangju 21st Century Hospital in the southwestern city of Gwangju on Feb. 10, 2020. The hospital has been under quarantine since Feb. 5, when a patient infected with the new coronavirus is known to have been there. (Yonhap)

Since Friday, the country's health authorities have expanded the scope of people subject to the test for the contagious virus and have allowed more medical centers to conduct the tests for potential cases.

South Korea is maintaining a high level of vigilance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but the authorities said the current alert level, the third highest, will be maintained.

Meanwhile, the country said that three of its nationals in mainland China have been confirmed to be infected with the new coronavirus.

The three members of a family staying in China's northeastern province of Shandong have tested positive for the new strain of virus, according to the Seoul government.

It marks the first time for South Korean nationals staying in mainland China to be confirmed to be diagnosed with the virus infection that has taken more than 900 lives there.

The Seoul government said it plans to provide a mobile application to entrants from China starting Wednesday, which will be available in English and Chinese. The application, which can be downloaded on smartphones, will help monitor the entrants' health conditions, it said.

khj@yna.co.kr
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