Korea confirmed its fourth patient infected with the new coronavirus on Monday.
|Concerns about the new coronavirus being contagious, even during its dormant state, have caused high anxiety among the Korean public. With fears rising, the KCDC will now quarantine anyone who visited China if they show the slightest symptoms of the new coronavirus.|
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the patient, another 55-year-old man who returned to Korea from Wuhan, China on Jan. 20, was confirmed to have the virus.
The patients visited a local hospital because of cold symptoms on Tuesday and revisited the hospital complaining about a high fever of 38 degrees and muscle pain on Saturday. The hospital reported him to the nearby health center, which put him under active surveillance. As his muscle pain aggravated on Sunday, the selective diagnosis facility at the health center diagnosed his condition as pneumonia. It classified him as having a new coronavirus later in the day.
As newly confirmed patients appear, public fear over the new illness is reaching a new level after the Chinese authorities acknowledged that the new coronavirus is contagious even during the incubation period.
“China’s National Health Commission told local governments and hospitals on Jan. 18 that some of those with the virus may not have a fever and the pathogen’s incubation period could be up to two weeks,” Bloomberg said citing a people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named discussing the situation.
The lack of fever as a symptom means that temperature screening -- the main method now being deployed at airports and transport hubs to control the outbreak -- would fail to pick up on at least some cases, it reported.
With fears over the virus increasing in China where the situation is most dire, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus has risen to 2,744, as of Monday. The death toll has also risen to 80, while the China National Health Commission also noted that 461 patients are in critical condition.
Besides the confirmed patients, China’s health authorities have stated that they have 5,794 people suspected of having the new coronavirus and 32,779 people who have been in contact with the new coronavirus patients. Despite the possibility of more patients, there have been only 51 patients discharged from hospitals after showing symptoms.
With the number of deaths increasing by two digits every day, concerns have been raised about whether the Chinese government failed to contain the virus during their initial response period.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned the accelerating spread of coronavirus infections had created a grave situation, with the local government extending its travel restrictions to 48 million people in Hubei province, while also banning inter-province buses to Beijing and canceled tour group travel abroad.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to declare the new coronavirus as a global emergency, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also stated that he is headed to China to meet with the government & health experts related to the coronavirus.
“My WHO colleagues and I would like to understand the latest developments and strengthen our partnership with China in providing further protection against the outbreak,” the WHO head said.
In Korea, concerns are also growing about the spread of the coronavirus during its incubation period. Such sentiments are widespread after the third confirmed patient was allegedly active in the community for two days before any symptoms appeared.
Unlike the two previous confirmations, which were relatively quickly quarantined, the patient is known to have had a wide range of community activities, which, in turn, has prolonged the epidemiological investigations by the KCDC even to identify people who had contact with the patient.
With the anxiety over the possibility of more patients rising, the Korean government has also stepped up its countermeasures.
The KCDC has decided to deem anyone who has a fever or respiratory symptom after visiting Hubei Province in China as a suspected patient and put them under quarantine.
Also, visitors to other parts of China will be monitored if they show signs of pneumonia.
“All travelers entering China must complete a health questionnaire and submit it to the quarantine officer upon arrival,” the KCDC said. “If you have symptoms such as fever, you should be quarantined.”
Afterward, an epidemiologist will identify symptoms and determine whether the patient should be immediately quarantined or managed in conjunction with local authorities, the KCDC added.
Meanwhile, the ruling and opposition parties have expressed conflicting opinions on the government’s response to the spread of the new coronavirus infection.
“Health authorities have responded appropriately to the quarantine of the third confirmed patient,” a spokesperson of the ruling party Democratic Party of Korea said on Sunday. “We ask the authorities to continue to be on alert and respond calmly.”
The opposition parties, on the other hand, bashed the government for its loose response.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party criticized President Moon Jae-in’s remarks asking the public to remain calm and trust the government’s hard work in containing the virus.
“Despite the spread of the new coronavirus becoming a reality, President Moon Jae-in's message is incredibly off-putting,” an LKP spokesperson said. “The president should not stand in front of the people with vague optimism and should provide clear measures instead.”
The nation's quarantine network has been breached even though it has been confirmed that the new coronavirus has an incubation period of two weeks, he added, stressing that the government should take measures to relieve people's anxiety realistically.
Such a remark came after a Cheong Wa Dae petition post that requests a temporary entry ban on people from China as confirmed cases and deaths from the new coronavirus has been gaining popularity.
As of 11:30 a.m., Monday, over 425,000 people have signed in favor of the petition.
The presidential office will now have to make an official answer to the petition as it has surpassed the required votes.
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