The government said Sunday it will send another chartered plane to China’s Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, to bring back Koreans and consider imposing an additional entry ban on other Chinese regions heavily struck by the virus.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun announced that the government would also tighten quarantine checks on those entering from virus-hit countries as he presided over an emergency ministerial meeting. Currently, Korea has barred the entry of foreigners who visited or stayed in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, in the previous two weeks.
Korea will send a third chartered flight to Wuhan to evacuate some 200 remaining Korean nationals and their families. Chinese authorities have allowed the Korean government to airlift Chinese nationals who are family members of Korean citizens from the city, according to the Korean consulate in Wuhan.
Some 701 people were evacuated by two chartered planes on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. They have been placed in isolation for a 14-day period at quarantine facilities in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, and Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province.
As of Sunday afternoon, the country added three confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total number of those infected to 27, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least five of them had visited countries other than China. Three of them have been discharged from hospitals after making a full recovery.
The three patients infected with the virus are a 73-year-old Korean woman, her 51-year-old son and 37-year-old daughter-in-law living in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province, according to the health agency.
The son and Chinese daughter-in-law visited China’s Guangdong province from last November to Jan. 31 this year. Guangdong province has seen some 1,120 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, making it the second-biggest source of virus infection.
The 73-year-old woman is believed to be have contracted the virus from her son and daughter-in-law. She has shown symptoms of fever, cough and sore throat since Feb. 6 and tested positive Sunday morning.
After her infection was confirmed, her daughter-in-law, who had been coughing since Feb. 4, and her son underwent check-ups for the virus and tested positive.
Some 1,698 people have come into contact with those infected with the virus as of 11 a.m. Sunday, the agency said. Among them, 1,163 people are without any symptoms and in self-imposed isolation. Some 960 people were awaiting the results of the virus test.
More people in Korea underwent tests for the new coronavirus over the weekend, as health authorities have given doctors discretion to decide whether to proceed with virus tests on patients even if they have not been to China. Previously, only those who visited China were subject to virus tests.
Meanwhile, the government said Saturday it plans to provide 1.23 million won ($1,030) per month to each four-person family with a member who has been in quarantine for more than 14 days. Foreign nationals are also eligible for support. It will receive applications starting Feb. 17, and payment will be made once the budget is allocated.
Some 14 Koreans onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in the Japanese port of Yokohama -- nine passengers and five crew members -- did not show symptoms of the virus, according to local media citing diplomatic sources. Some 64 passengers onboard the cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus.
As the virus spreads outside China, it has killed more than 810 people worldwide, with about 37,500 infections confirmed as of Sunday. It has spread to 28 countries, including Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Germany and the US, with about 300 people infected with the virus outside China.
By Ock Hyun-ju (email@example.com