Published: Sat, February 22, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

South Korea reports 52 more virus infections as outbreak expands

South Korea reports 52 more virus infections as outbreak expands

As the death toll in China's coronavirus rose to 2,233 on Friday, South Korea confirmed 52 more cases of the virus taking the overall figure to 156 in the country.

South Korea reported more virus cases Friday and declared a "special management zone" around a southeastern city where the surging outbreak, largely linked to a church in Daegu, threatens to overwhelm the region's health system.

Outside the Shincheonji church in the city, Seo Dong-min, 24, told AFP: "With so many confirmed cases here I'm anxious that Daegu will become the second Wuhan", referring to the Chinese city where the virus first emerged.

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which claims it has about 200,000 followers in the country, said it has closed all of its 74 churches around the nation and told followers to instead watch its online worship services on YouTube.

The center also confirmed 22 additional cases of the virus, raising the total in South Korea to 104.

Some of the infections may be linked to the recent funeral of Lee's brother in Cheongdo, a city adjacent to Daegu, considered a sacred site by members of the church because it is Lee's birthplace.

(Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony).

Stocks fell 1.5 per cent in South Korea yesterday. A pastor told JoongAng Ilbo newspaper in an interview that some 1,000 people attended services in which the 61-year-old coronavirus patient was also in attendance.

The multiplying caseload in South Korea showed the ease with which the illness can spread.

The country has urged people in a city of 2.5 million people to stay in their homes and banned some public gatherings.

"We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency", Tedros said.

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The virus has also spread around the globe with more than 1,000 cases and several deaths in the rest of Asia, in Europe, the U.S. and Africa.

The virus was found in a 45-year-old Lebanese woman who had travelled from Qom in Iran, he said, adding that she was in good health.

The total accumulated number of confirmed cases in Daegu and its neighboring North Gyeongsang Province stood at 153, with the number of cases linked to the Daegu church coming to 128.

Health authorities are investigating how the Daegu church was infected by the virus, Jung said.

"From now on, the government will further prioritize preventing the virus from spreading locally".

The man died Wednesday, and the hospital was preparing his funeral when two other men at the hospital tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, leading health officials to check whether any other coronavirus patient at the hospital had gone undetected, including the patient who died.

"We are deeply sorry that because of one of our members, who thought of her condition as a cold because she had not travelled overseas, led to many in our church being infected and thereby caused concern to the local community", it said in a statement. That raised fears that South Korea - which before Wednesday had recorded just 31 cases of the virus - should brace for a further surge.

Globally, more than 76,000 people have been infected in 27 countries, and more than 2,200 have died.

In at least one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, suggesting symptom-free patients could spread the disease, they wrote in preliminary findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Iran says two people infected with the virus have died in the city of Qom - the first reported deaths in the Middle East.

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