|The 18th coronavirus patient, the daughter of the 16th patient, arrives at Chonnam National University Hospital in Gwangju, Wednesday./ Yonhap|
By Kim Se-jeong
Medical experts renewed their criticism of the government Wednesday, urging it to extend an entry ban for foreigners beyond China, as four out of the total of 19 coronavirus cases here have been confirmed to involve people who traveled to Thailand, Singapore and Japan, not China.
"The new developments are certainly worrisome. The government must consider blocking entry from countries beyond China," said Korean Medical Association spokesman Park Jong-hyuk. "However, as the government is not doing enough to ban people from China, I don't know what to expect from it."
On Wednesday, the government reported three more cases of the novel coronavirus, raising the total to 19.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said a 36-year-old Korean man who returned from Singapore after attending a conference there last month tested positive for the contagious virus, confirming him as the 19th case.
Another man, 38, who was confirmed as the 17th patient, attended the same conference in Singapore.
The 17th and 19th patients had been informed that one of the people they had been in contact with in Singapore was infected with the virus and voluntarily went to a hospital for testing.
The 16th confirmed patient visited Thailand before showing symptoms on her return.
The 12th confirmed patient had tested positive for the virus Feb. 1 after a visit to Japan. The 49-year-old man was believed to have been infected by a person he met there, and later also voluntarily reported for testing.
Park reiterated the importance of the "golden time," saying, "Quarantine is all about the golden time. If you miss the golden time, you lose everything. For Hubei Province, the travel ban should have been in place two weeks ago."
Dr. Kim Woo-joo from the Korea University Guro Hospital said the 17th case proves the quarantine authorities must be open to all possible scenarios when instituting preventive measures, criticizing the government's "narrow-minded and passive" ban.
"For the Korean quarantine authorities, the 17th patient was infected through quite an unthinkable route," Kim said.
The government remained adamant that its current measures are effective.
Asked about the possible infection in Thailand, Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it would be premature to conclude the 16th patient was infected there.
The 42-year-old woman returned home from Thailand Jan. 19, and then visited 21st Century Hospital and Chonnam National University Hospital in Gwangju after coming down with a fever, Jan. 27.
The 18th confirmed patient, 21, is the daughter of the 16th patient.
Chonnam National University Hospital and 21st Century Hospital raised their infection alert to high Wednesday.
At 21st Century Hospital, all patients and medical staff on the same floor the 16th patient visited have been quarantined. The government said it had considered quarantining the entire hospital ― a so-called cohort isolation ― but didn't do so.
Meanwhile, the second confirmed patient was released from hospital, also Wednesday, after fully recovering from the infection, the first person to do so.