Despite expanded testing, number of S. Korea’s confirmed coronavirus infections doesn’t increase

Posted on : 2020-02-14 18:10 KST Modified on : 2020-02-14 18:10 KST
7 of 28 patients discharged; other 21 reportedly in “stable condition”
Travelers arriving at Incheon International Airport from Hong Kong download self-diagnosis apps on Feb. 13. (photo pool)
Travelers arriving at Incheon International Airport from Hong Kong download self-diagnosis apps on Feb. 13. (photo pool)

Even though South Korea has massively expanded testing for the novel coronavirus on Feb. 7, it hasn’t seen the numbers of confirmed infections surge as many had feared. During the three days since the 28th patient was diagnosed on Feb. 10, no additional cases of COVID-19, the disease resulting from the virus, have been identified.

According to figures released by Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on Feb. 13, there are a total of 28 confirmed cases in the country. Even somewhere between 500 and 800 tests are being conducted every day, most of them have come back negative. As of 4 pm on Feb. 13, a total of 6,438 South Koreans has been tested for COVID-19 (excluding previously confirmed cases), with 5,921 individuals testing negative. The other 562 are still being tested.

So far, seven of the 28 individuals who’ve contracted the disease have been discharged from the hospital, while the other 21 are generally in stable condition. “We’re considering whether to discharge a couple more patients,” said KCDC director Jung Eun-kyeong. One of the patients being treated for pneumonia needs oxygen supplementation, but the case isn’t so severe as to require a respirator.

The South Korean nationals and their Chinese family members evacuated from Wuhan on a third charter flight on Thursday included five adults and two children with fever and respiratory symptoms. But when they were tested, all their results came back negative. The other 140 individuals, who’d been transported to the Korea Defense Language Institute in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, were all tested as well; once again, the results were negative. The Koreans who were evacuated on the first and second charter flights are scheduled to be released on Feb. 15-16.

Public health authorities say it’s still too early to assume COVID-19 is subsiding

Even so, South Korea’s public health authorities believe it’s still too early to assume that COVID-19 is subsiding. There are still about 5,000 people entering the country from China every day (though that represents a major decrease from before), and the number of new cases in China continues to rise.

“I don’t think there’s a major risk of widespread infection at the local level, but we still need to stay alert,” Chung said.

The government has beefed up preventative measures designed to stop the disease from spreading locally and within hospitals. It’s assigned officials to keep track of people under self-quarantine in each city and province and brought the number of quarantine rooms available for people who’ve come into contact with infected individuals up to 864, in 19 facilities. A total of 18.8 billion won (US$15.89 million) will also be spent on installing mobile X-ray machines in testing centers.

South Korean doctors have also reached an agreement about how to care for patients with COVID-19. In the first set of guidelines, a central clinical task force composed of doctors treating COVID-19 patients recommend that elderly patients with underlying conditions be given AIDS and malaria drugs, as well as antiviral medication, for 7-10 days. But young, healthy patients who only show mild symptoms can recover without taking antivirals, the doctors said.

By Park Da-hae, staff reporter

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