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(LEAD) Gov't not considering changing current alert level for novel coronavirus

16:14 February 15, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details on situation in Japan in paras 8, 10-13)

SEOUL, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's government said Saturday that it is not considering changing the country's alert level for the novel coronavirus just because no new cases have been reported in the last four days.

The country has reported 28 confirmed cases since Jan. 21, with nine people being released from quarantine so far after making full recoveries. All the remaining infected people are in a stable condition and none are in any kind of danger.

In a regular press conference in Sejong City, 130 kilometers south of Seoul, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said that the government is carefully monitoring all developments in regard to the COVID-19 virus inside the country, as well as in foreign countries.

"It is very fortunate that there have not been any new cases in South Korea but new cases coming out of China require utmost attention," Kim said. China, which reported the first case in late 2019, has confirmed over 1,500 deaths and more than 66,000 infections.

South Korea raised its alert level from "yellow" to "orange" on Jan. 27 after four cases were reported in the country. An orange level alert is issued if there is limited domestic transmission.

He said that Seoul also needs to be mindful that with rise in movement of people in China following the long Lunar New year holiday and incidents coming out of Japan, where health authorities are unsure of how transmission occurred, it is best if the country remains on guard.

The official added that policymakers are concerned about the steady spread of COVID-19 in places like Hong Kong and Southeast Asian countries that maintain close contact with South Korea and where there is a lot of movement of people.

Kim then said that while Seoul is keeping very close tabs on Japan, it is difficult to determine if that country can be classified as a "contaminated country" at present.

The Japanese government said it is trying to determine the causes of seven cases involving people who contracted the COVID-19 without coming into contact with known sick people or having traveled abroad.

Seoul has asked its citizens not to make unnecessary trips to the country and expressed worries about the situation.

The KCDC said that it is also looking at all the information coming in from the country before making any decisions on future actions.

Tokyo has said that it has 259 cases of coronavirus, of which 218 are people who were infected on a cruise ship docked at Yokohama.

A bus carrying the first group of Wuhan evacuees leaves a public facility in Asan, 90 kilometers south of Seoul, on Feb. 15, 2020. All people who were airlifted from China on Jan. 31 tested negative for COVID-19. (Yonhap)

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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