- Seoul considers widening entry ban on foreigners
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said Wednesday it has confirmed three more cases of the new coronavirus infection, pushing up the total to 19.
"The 17th patient is a 38-year-old Korean man who visited Singapore on business from Jan. 18-24, and contacted a Malaysian who recently tested positive for the virus," the KCDC said. "He visited a clinic on Tuesday, and a test confirmed that he was infected with the new coronavirus."
The 18th case is a Korean woman, 21, who is the daughter of the 16th patient and was in quarantine before testing positive for the virus, the agency added. The 19th patient, confirmed at 7 p.m., is a 36-year-old Korean man who also attended the same conference in Singapore as the 17th patient did.
As the number of new coronavirus patients increases, there also has been a fierce backlash from the public regarding the process through which the 16th patient received her confirmation.
Reports said when the patient initially visited Gwangju 21st Century Clinic on Jan. 27, the clinic called KCDC hotline and transferred the patient to Chonnam National University Hospital (CNUH). The hospital also suspected the patient of having the new coronavirus and requested a test for the virus to a public health center in Gwangju. However, the public center is known to have denied the request as the patient had not traveled to China.
The patient was only prescribed pills to treat pneumonia. However, she soon revisited the clinic as her symptom deteriorated and was hospitalized for a week before transferring to the emergency room at CNUH.
The problem is that the patients, who were in the same clinic as the 16th patient, may be in danger of contracting the disease as the patients were in close contact with the 16th confirmed patient and had weak immunity.
As the hospital had more than 50 medical workers and 80 patients, fear has been rising that the 16th patient may become a super-spreader -- a patient who easily infects other people due to high viral activity and weak immune system.
In contrast to the disappointing case, the Seoul Medical Center discharged the second confirmed patient as he has fully recovered from his symptoms and was deemed virus-free on Tuesday. It was the first case of full recovery from the new coronavirus in the nation.
Yielding to mounting public pressure, meanwhile, the government hinted on Wednesday that it might enforce additional entry ban on foreigners. It was only Tuesday the government began to bar foreigners who've been in China's Hubei Province in the past two weeks.
"If needed, the government will take the necessary precaution for other areas than Hubei Province," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in an interagency meeting. "We also plan to conduct tests for any suspected new coronavirus patients even if they have not visited China."