S.Korea raises disease alert to highest level as virus cases soar

Clay Curtis
February 26, 2020

While some experts say the virus has started to spread nationwide, pointing to a number of infections in Seoul and elsewhere that weren't immediately traceable, government officials remained hopeful of containing the outbreak.

Officials are also investigating a possible link between churchgoers and the spike in infections at the Cheongdo hospital, where more than 110 people have been infected so far, mostly patients at a mental illness ward.

In Italy, the worst-affected country in Europe, the virus has killed two people - a man and a woman in their 70s - and infected another 51 mostly in the north.

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to order schools, businesses, and restaurants closed, and to cancel sporting events and Masses. Singapore reported recoveries outpacing new cases.

"A turning point in the development of the national epidemic situation has not yet arrived", concluded the meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping, according to state television.

The last time South Korea raised the alert level to the highest was 11 years ago during the Influenza A or H1N1 outbreak, Yonhap said.

"The government will raise the alert level to the highest level".

South Korea has released 18 fully recovered patients from hospitals as of Sunday morning, the KCDC said. "We shouldn't be bound by regulations and hesitate to take unprecedented, powerful measures", he said.

South Korea reported more virus cases and declared a "special management zone" around a southeastern city where the surging outbreak threatens to overwhelm the health system. The virus has also resulted in the deaths of two people in the European country.

Beijing/Wuhan: President Xi Jinping on Sunday said the coronavirus epidemic is China's "largest public health emergency" as the death toll from the deadly virus climbed to 2,442 and the number of infections hit nearly 77,000 in the country. There's concern that the country's death toll could grow.

The second case remains in isolation.The Public Health Department continues to work closely with healthcare providers, hospitals, and its partners to address novel coronavirus. Several changes to how the infections are counted, however, have made it hard to draw conclusions from the figures.

Wuhan, the provincial capital, reported 314 new confirmed cases and 90 new deaths on Friday. Many of South Korea's new cases were linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus congregation in Daegu after a 61-year-old woman known as "Patient 31" tested positive for the virus last week.

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Shincheonji, which has been viewed as a cult movement by mainstream Christian organizations, tried to defend itself from growing public anger directed at the church.

Around 9,300 Shincheonji members in Daegu have either been quarantined or have been asked to stay at home, said Jung Eun-kyeong, director of Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Medical workers wearing protective gear carry a patient infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Chuncheon on February 22, 2020.

Some analysts believe China's economy could contract in the first quarter from the previous three months due to the combined supply and demand shocks caused by the epidemic and strict government containment measures.

Iran reported a total of 43 infections, with eight deaths - all since Tuesday - forcing some of its neighbours to announce travel and immigration curbs. The facility, which has 34 confirmed cases, has been closed off to protect the surrounding community, said a statement from Xicheng district authorities.

There also have been several cases in the capital, Seoul, where the infection routes have not yet been traced.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic row erupted after Israel turned back a South Korean airliner, underscoring fear and tensions over the fast-spreading outbreak.

Israel has issued an entry ban on South Koreans and refused to allow non-Israelis to disembark from a Korean Air plane on Saturday. Kuwait said it is evacuating 750 Kuwaiti citizens on five flights. The first line of defence: Isolate the sick to treat them and prevent further spread, and quarantine people who came in contact with them until the incubation period is over.

He had met with a man who returned from China on January 21, but that man remains without symptoms.

Usually bustling downtown streets of Daegu were almost deserted as people wearing face masks lined up at clinics seeking testing.

Kim Mi-yeon, who opened his bakery in Daegu on Sunday despite concerns about the infection, said he only received a group of customers.

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