Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a department store in Daegu, South Korea. AP
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced additional 161 cases and 2 deaths on Monday, bringing the toll to 763 that puts the country third in the list of COVID-19 infected hotspots.
So far the bulk of Korea’s confirmed and suspected cases stem from the city of Daegu, particularly from the Shincheonji Church (456), and the surrounding province of Gyeong-buk at Daenam Hospital (113), which make up an alarming 75 per cent of the total number of cases confirmed.
On February 18, a woman in her 60s was tested positive in Daegu and had initially refused a check up. Belonging to the cult of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the nation’s 31st patient was reported to have been in denial of her own symptoms believing they were “mild.”
Based on the epidemiological investigation, the misdiagnosis led to the current exacerbated situation after the patient had come in contact with churchgoers for two services, all of whom are currently being screened.
Vice Health Minister Kim Kang-lip said that the government aims to stabilise Daegu’s situation in four weeks.
"In Daegu, the number of new cases that are being confirmed by tests is quite large, and if we fail to effectively stem community transmissions in this area, there would be a large possibility (that the illness) spreads nationwide.”
A special task force was promptly dispatched to disinfect and screen areas in Daegu where about 28,000 citizens are exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
KCDC has advised the Shincheonji sect followers and their family members to self-quarantine indoors to impede secondary contamination. Similar warnings have been issued to the residents of Daegu and other infected areas in its vicinity.
Seoul's Mayor Park Won-soon expressed his concern during a local radio interview saying the viral invasion of Seoul meant the infiltration of the Republic of Korea.
Cases in the country’s capital Seoul have been minimal for now but authorities have started taking preventative measures given the escalating numbers in surrounding cities. Seoul employees are to commute during different hours of the day to avoid transit congestion.
The Republic of Korea Armed Forces, the nation’s military that houses young male citizens for its mandatory service, recently reported 13 confirmed cases on Monday afternoon with measures to quarantine around 7,500 soldiers underway.
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Mayor Kwon Young-jin has asked 2.5 million people from the South Korean city of Daegu to stay indoors and refrain from stepping out as a new virus spreads rapidly in the city.
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