Coronavirus: South Korea 'emergency' measures as infections increase

South Korea has stepped up measures to contain the spread of the deadly new coronavirus, as confirmed infections increased sharply for a second day.

PM Chung Sye-kyun said it was now an emergency as 100 new cases and the country’s second death were confirmed.

The virus has also spread in Iran, which reported two further deaths among 13 new cases, bringing the total number of deaths there to four.

Lebanon also announced its first confirmed case.

In Iran, the outbreak is centred on the holy city of Qom, south of the capital Tehran, but health ministry official Minou Mohrez said the virus may already have spread to “all cities in Iran”.

The case in Lebanon was a 45-year-old woman who had travelled from Qom, Lebanese Health Minister Hassan Hamad said.

World Health Organization (WHO) officials said both Iran and Lebanon had the basic capacity to detect the virus and the WHO was contacting them to offer further assistance.

“The measures China and others have taken have given us a fighting chance of containing the spread of the virus,” WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“Our window of opportunity is narrowing so we need to act quickly,” he added.

The southern cities of Daegu and Cheongdo have been declared “special care zones”. The streets of Daegu are now largely abandoned.

All military bases are in lockdown after three soldiers tested positive.

About 9,000 members of a religious group were told to self quarantine, after the sect was identified as a coronavirus hotbed.

The authorities suspect the current outbreak in South Korea originated in Cheongdo, pointing out that a large number of sect followers attended a funeral of the founder’s brother from 31 January to 2 February.

On Friday, a second person who contracted the coronavirus died.

The victim was a woman in her 50s. She died in the south-western city of Busan after being transferred there from a hospital in a nearby country, according to Yonhap news agency.

Reports say she had earlier been a patient at the same mental hospital in Cheongdo as the country’s first victim – an elderly man. Another 15 patients there have also tested positive.

South Korea is trying hard to stop the local spread of the new coronavirus
On Thursday, 53 new cases were reported. South Korea now has a total of 204 cases making it the largest cluster outside mainland China and the cruise ship docked off Japan.

The new virus, which originated last year in Hubei province in China, causes a respiratory disease called Covid-19.

The city’s biggest cluster appears to be at a branch of a religious sect which calls itself the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.

South Korean health officials believe these infections are linked to a 61-year-old woman who tested positive for the virus earlier this week. About 1,000 people attended the same service as the woman on Sunday.

Workers have been disinfecting the streets of Daegu, South Korea’s fourth-largest city
The Shincheonji, which has been accused of being a cult, said it had now shut down its Daegu branch and that services in other regions would be held online or individually at home.

As of Friday, more than 400 members of the church were showing symptoms of the disease, though tests were still ongoing, the city mayor said.

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