|Sanitation workers at Incheon International Airport disinfect the Arrival Hall as a part of efforts to stop the spread of a new type of coronavirus here, Tuesday. /Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
The health authorities are increasing their monitoring of people who have recently been to China, following confirmation that the new type of coronavirus discovered in Wuhan there can be spread by infected people, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced Tuesday.
International airports nationwide, including, Gimpo and Cheongju have strengthened the screening of travelers arriving from China after a woman from the neighboring country was confirmed as the first patient here.
"Considering the cases in China, it is difficult to say that there is no transmission between people," Jeong Eun-kyung, head of the KCDC, said in a briefing at the Sejong Government Complex.
"However, people here were not exposed since the confirmed case was identified during the arrival process and promptly transported to an isolation unit," Jeong said.
On Tuesday, China's National Health Commission said the disease can spread from person to person, but added increased vigilance could halts the outbreak. The Wuhan Health Commission said at least 15 medical workers in Wuhan have been infected with the virus, with one in serious condition.
The KCDC confirmed Monday that a 35-year-old Chinese woman living in Wuhan, the capital of China's central Hubei Province, where the virus appears to have originated, tested positive for the virus when she arrived at Incheon International Airport, Jan. 20.
Following the confirmation, the KCDC elevated its alert level by one step and ordered the relevant local authorities to strengthen their monitoring of the disease.
The disease control center said the woman is currently in a stable condition without any symptoms of pneumonia while she has been under quarantine at a designated isolation unit. After conducting an epidemiological investigation, the KCDC said 44 people had come into contact with the patient with nine having already left the country. The other 35 people didn't show any symptoms, it added.
The KCDC classified the passengers in the seventh row from the woman, including the front and rear three rows as people who needed to be monitored based on the air circulation in the airplane.
As of Jan.20, the Chinese government had reported 201 confirmed cases including ones in Beijing and Shenzhen in southeastern China, while two were confirmed in Thailand and one in Japan.