Coronavirus: South Korea reports 3 new cases, including two who attended conference in Singapore

Quarantine officials disinfect at Suwon Station in Suwon, South Korea, on Feb 3, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL - South Korea reported three new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday (Feb 5), including two South Korean men who attended a conference in Singapore where they both came into contact with a Malaysian man infected with the same virus.

This brings the total number of coronavirus patients in South Korea to 19. One of them, a 55-year-old South Korean man who visited China's Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, was discharged on Wednesday, making him the first person in South Korea to fully recover from the virus.

According to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the 19th patient is a 36-year-old South Korean man who was in Singapore Jan 18-23 to attend a conference.

He began self-quarantine on Tuesday (Feb 4), after hearing that a Malaysian who attended the same conference was infected with the corona virus, which has killed nearly 500 people and infected more than 24,000, mostly in China.

The Korean man tested positive for the virus on Wednesday evening, making him the second Korean man to be infected in Singapore.

He is now quarantined at the Seoul Medical Center, and contact tracing is underway, the KCDC said in a statement.

Patient No 17, a 38-year-old Korean man, was also in Singapore Jan 18-23, attending the same conference as the 19th patient.

Held at Grand Hyatt Hotel, the conference was attended by several international delegations, including China.

Unwell since Jan 26, the Korean man sought medical treatment at three different hospitals before hearing on Tuesday that he had come into contact with an infected Malaysian in Singapore. He reportedly had a meal with the Malaysian and a few other Koreans.

The man, who lives in Guri city in Gyeonggi province surrounding Seoul, tested positive on Wednesday morning and is being quarantined at Myungji Hospital.

South Korea's 18th case, on the other hand, is a 21-year-old Korean woman whose mother tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. The older woman, 42, had visited Bangkok for a five-day vacation in mid January. She is the 16th case in the country.

Concern is growing within South Korea over tertiary transmission of the virus. The KCDC said it is actively tracing the whereabouts of all the confirmed patients to find out who they might have come into close contact with, so as to contain the spread of the virus.

An Employee from a disinfection service company sanitizes at a traditional market in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb 5, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

The health agency had said on Tuesday that they are monitoring 1,318 people who were in close contact with the confirmed patients for symptoms. Out of 607 people tested for the virus, 462 turned out negative. There are still 129 people under quarantine.

All the confirmed patients so far are in stable conditions, said the KCDC.

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The country's first case, a 35-year-old Chinese woman who arrived in South Korea on Jan 19 and tested positive on Jan 20, is likely to be discharged on Thursday, as she has shown no symptoms since Monday.

Health authorities said there are certain criteria to be met before discharge, and they would seek expert opinion before allowing recovered patients to leave the hospital.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry is urging universities to delay the beginning of their spring term by up to four weeks, taking into consideration that there are some 70,000 Chinese students enrolled here. The spring term usually begins in March, and most of the Chinese students are away on vacation.


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