The Korea Herald


Seoul on alert after 1st confirmed case of coronavirus from China

By Choi He-suk

Published : Jan. 20, 2020 - 16:45

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Passengers arriving from Southeast Asia and Wuhan are scanned at the Incheon International Aiport on Monday. Yonhap Passengers arriving from Southeast Asia and Wuhan are scanned at the Incheon International Aiport on Monday. Yonhap

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Monday ordered health authorities to respond quickly to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus from China, after the first case was confirmed in South Korea.

On Monday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a Chinese woman had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

On receiving the report, Chung ordered the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the KCDC to work with other concerned organizations to prevent the virus from spreading, and to inform the public swiftly and transparently about preventive measures.

According to the KCDC, the woman -- a 35-year-old resident of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province -- arrived at Incheon International Airport on Sunday. She was quarantined upon arrival when she was observed to have a fever and other symptoms linked to the new coronavirus, the KCDC said. She is currently being treated at the Incheon Medical Center.

Now that the first case has been confirmed in Korea, the KCDC has raised the alert level from blue to yellow. The KCDC has a four-stage alert system for infectious diseases, with blue being the lowest and yellow the second-lowest. A yellow alert is issued when the presence of a recently reported infectious disease originating outside the country is confirmed in Korea.

The KCDC said an epidemiological investigation is underway, and that a response center has been launched to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to the KCDC, the woman visited a doctor in China on Saturday with fever, muscle aches and other symptoms and was diagnosed as having a cold. The KCDC said she had not visited the market in Wuhan that has been connected to the spread of the virus, and has had no contact with wild animals.

The woman was on her way to Japan with her family, and the five people who accompanied her have not shown any symptoms.

The KCDC said that because the woman’s illness was detected at the quarantine checkpoint, she did not come into contact with the general population. Individuals who came into contact with her, including passengers on the same flight and flight attendants, are being monitored and the local public health office will respond to any developments, the KCDC said.

In addition to the Chinese woman, seven people who have visited Wuhan in recent weeks have shown symptoms. Four have been released from quarantine, having tested negative for the Chinese coronavirus. The results on the remaining three are pending, the KCDC said.

So far more than 200 people have been confirmed to be infected with the virus in Wuhan, with nearly 140 cases being confirmed over the weekend. According to reports, 170 people are currently being treated for the virus in Wuhan, nine of whom are in critical condition. In addition to Wuhan, two cases have been confirmed in Beijing and another in Shenzhen. The virus has so far claimed three lives in China. Outside China, one case has been confirmed in Japan and two in Thailand.

By Choi He-suk (