First group of 368 S. Koreans evacuated from Wuhan

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : January 31, 2020, 10:00 | Updated : January 31, 2020, 16:30

Airport officials armed with anti-virus gear are on standby around a Korean Air plane that evacuated the first group of South Koreans from Wuhan, China, on January 31. [Yonhap News Photo]

SEOUL -- An evacuation plane carrying 368 South Koreans from China arrived amid a widespread health scare that grew after South Korea reported the 11th patient infected with the new deadly virus that prompted the World Health Organization to declare a global public health emergency.

The Korean Air B747 plane landed at an airport in western Seoul on Friday after a two-hour flight from Wuhan. In an on-site health check, 18 passengers showed related symptoms and were taken to isolation wards, while the other people were sent to two state-designated facilities for strict monitoring for two weeks.

The evacuation of about 350 South Koreans remaining in Wuhan will be decided through diplomatic consultations between Seoul and Beijing, Kim Kang-rip, vice head of South Korea's anti-virus government body, said in a press briefing.

Public concerns grew after seven more patients infected with the novel coronavirus were hospitalized for isolated treatment on Thursday and Friday, bringing to 11 the total number of patients who have been infected with the coronavirus since the first confirmed case was reported on January 20.

The fifth patient is a 32-year-old man who had made a business trip to Wuhan. The sixth patient was a 55-year-old man who had dinner at a restaurant in Seoul with the third patient who had visited restaurants and other places for several days after traveling from Wuhan.

On Friday, a 28-year-old South Korean man who had visited Wuhan was listed as the seventh patient. He arrived in Incheon via Qingdao on January 23 aboard a Chinese plane and reported to health authorities due to fever and coughing from January 29.

The eighth one was a 62-year-old woman who arrived in Incheon on January 23 aboard the same plane used by the seventh patient after visiting Wuhan. Information on three other patients would be released later, but health officials said family members of the patients appeared to have been infected.

"We don't think it's spreading widely through communities because there's a limited spread between families and acquaintances," said Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), a state anti-epidemic agency.

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