South Korean woman who returned home from Bangkok diagnosed with the coronavirus

Tourists wear protective face masks at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan 31, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - A South Korean woman who recently visited Bangkok has become the 16th person in the country to test positive for the coronavirus that has killed over 400 people and infected more than 20,000 others, mostly in China.

The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Tuesday (Feb 4) that the 42-year-old woman returned to her hometown Gwangju, 330km south of Seoul, on Jan 19 after a five-day vacation. She began to feel unwell on Jan 25 and visited two hospitals for treatment on Jan 27.

Her condition did not improve and was tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday (Feb 3).

It is not known yet how she caught the virus and if she did so in Thailand, which has recorded 19 cases to date.

The KCDC said the woman has been placed under quarantine and contact tracing efforts are underway.

Thailand's health authorities have asked Seoul for more information on the case, so as to be able to track down who might have been in close contact with the patient while she was in Bangkok.

Dr Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of Thailand's Disease Control Department, was quoted as saying in the Bangkok Post that tourists were drawn to places filled with other foreign visitors and thus were "likely to be in areas of disease transmission".

But he added that transmission within Thailand remained limited, and that health authorities were actively identifying and treating patients.

"The case of the Korean woman does not change the degree of risk concerning the disease in Thailand. Chances of contraction remain low in this country," Dr Taarak was quoted as saying.

The 42-year-old South Korean woman is one of 13 citizens infected with the coronavirus, which originated from the city of Wuhan, in central China. Three other cases are of Chinese nationals.

The KCDC said 1,318 people who were in close contact with the confirmed cases were being monitored. Out of 607 people tested for the virus, 462 turned out negative. There are still 129 people under quarantine.

One patient - a 55-year-old Korean man who returned from Wuhan on Jan 22 - is due to be discharged this week.

Doctors said he has fully recovered and will be able to lead a normal life. He was the second person to test positive for the virus since Jan 20.

South Korea has since stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Travellers from Hubei province - or who had stayed there in the past 14 days - were banned from entering the country from Tuesday. Wuhan is located in the province.

President Moon Jae-in has urged the South Korean government to be prepared for a protracted crisis. During a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, he called for swift measures to minimise the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak and financial aid for South Korean companies hit by the crisis.


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