Virus spreads in South Korean city as thousands are screened

Seoul: South Korea on Saturday reported an eight-fold jump in viral infections in four days to 433, most of them linked to a church and a hospital in and around the country’s fourth-largest city, where health workers scrambled to screen more than 9,000 worshippers.
There’s concern that the death toll, currently at two, could grow. Virus patients with signs of pneumonia or other serious conditions at the Cheongdo hospital were transferred to other facilities, 17 of them in critical condition, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters.
He said that the outbreak had entered a serious new phase, but still expressed cautious optimism that it can be contained to the region surrounding Daegu, where the first case was reported on Tuesday.
In some positive news, China said Saturday the daily count of new virus cases there fell significantly to 397, though another 109 people died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus. Most of the new cases and all but three of the deaths were in Hubei province, where the outbreak started.
The new figures, along with an upward revision of Hubei’s earlier count, brought the total number of cases in mainland China to 76,288 with 2,345 deaths.
China has severely restricted travel and imposed strict quarantine measures to stop the virus from spreading.
Of the 229 new cases in South Korea, 200 are from Daegu and nearby regions, which have emerged as the latest front in the widening global fight against the virus. By Saturday morning, the city of 2.5 million and nearby areascounted 352 cases, including the two fatalities in the Cheongdo hospital.
The central government has declared the area as a “special management zone” and is channeling support to ease a shortage in hospital beds, medical personnel and equipment.
“Although we are beginning to see some more cases nationwide, infections are still sporadic outside of the special management zone of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province,” Kim said during a briefing.
He called for maintaining strong border controls to prevent infections from China and elsewhere from entering South Korea. Nationwide, the numbers told of a ballooning problem. (AP)

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