A board shows the arrival time of a cargo flight from London at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, on Dec. 24, 2020, as South Korea has suspended all passenger flights arriving from Britain until early 2021 over concerns about a new strain of the novel coronavirus. (Yonhap)
South Korea's health authorities on Tuesday confirmed two more cases of a more transmissible variant from arrivals from Britain, bringing the total caseload here to 12.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the two people, who entered the country on Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 from Britain, respectively, were confirmed to have the new COVID-19 strain.
The two tested positive for COVID-19 after landing and were immediately quarantined, meaning others in the community had no contact with them.
However, the authorities said the possibility of the variant spreading to other passengers on the flight they were aboard cannot be ruled out.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the new variant, referred to as VOC202012/01, was identified through viral genome sequencing.
Initial analysis indicates that the variant may spread more readily between people than the original virus, maybe up to 70 percent more transmissible than the old variant.
The COVID-19 virus is divided into eight groups, with South Korea mostly detecting the GH strain since late last year.
However, various other groups have since been reported from imported cases.
South Korea earlier announced that it will temporarily suspend all flights arriving from Britain until Thursday.
The KDCA also said it will take further tests, known as next-generation sequencing, on arrivals from Britain and South Africa. The method provides an effective way to identify coronavirus strains and other pathogens without prior knowledge of the organisms.
The country added 715 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, including 672 local infections, raising the total caseload to 64,979, according to the KDCA. (Yonhap)