Seoul, Korea, Republic of, Jan 31 – Eighteen South Koreans evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan have been hospitalised after showing symptoms while 350 others are in quarantine, Seoul’s health authorities said Friday, as concerns mount about a wider outbreak of the SARS-like virus.
A chartered plane carrying a total of 368 South Korean citizens arrived on Friday in the South from Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have emerged from an animal and seafood market.
Among them, 18 evacuees who were showing symptoms have been hospitalised at two medical facilities in Seoul, vice health minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters.
“The 350 people, who are asymptomatic … will be staying at temporary facilities” outside of Seoul for the next two weeks, he added.
“During the 14 days, residents won’t be allowed to leave the facility and any visits from outsiders will be banned completely.”
The announcement comes with concern growing in the South about the spread of the virus in the country, where 11 cases have been identified as of Friday afternoon.
Among them are three individuals who contracted the virus without travelling to China, according to Seoul’s health officials.
One of them was a man in his 50s who developed symptoms after dining with the South’s third confirmed patient at a restaurant in southern Seoul.
A second flight is to leave for Wuhan to evacuate more Korean citizens on Friday night, the foreign ministry said hours before the jet’s departure.
Some 350 Koreans who wish to return to the South are still in the virus-stricken Chinese city.
“We cannot share at this point how many passengers will be on board the second plane,” a ministry official told AFP.
The government’s decision to quarantine the evacuees in Jincheon and Asan — two cities about 85 kilometres (50 miles) south of Seoul, has met with fierce opposition from residents.
Vice health minister Kim was physically attacked earlier this week by protesters when he made a visit to Jincheon, ahead of the evacuees’ arrival.