In this file photo, people apply for COVID-19 tests at a testing station set up for departing passengers at the second terminal of Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Jan. 8, 2021. (Yonhap)
South Korea's health authorities on Monday confirmed the country's first case of the new coronavirus variant that was first identified in Brazil.
The latest discovery brings the total caseload of new coronavirus variants to 18 here, including 15 with the British COVID-19 variant and two with the South African variant, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Reports say the British and South African variants may spread more readily between people than the original virus, with the variants possibly up to 1.5 times more transmissible than the old one.
However, there has been no proof on whether the Brazilian variant is more transmissible.
Since late December, the authorities have conducted 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 also extended the ban on passenger flights departing from Britain, which has been in place since Dec. 23, to block the new virus variant.
Starting on Monday, all foreign entrants must present papers showing negative PCR tests taken within the last 24 hours of their departure to the nation. Previously, the PCR tests had to be taken within 72 hours of departure.
The country added 389 more COVID-19 cases Monday, the smallest number in nearly two months, raising the total caseload to 72,729, according to the KDCA. (Yonhap)