S. Korea's COVID-19 death toll rises to 8, infections surge to over 890

The number of those diagnosed with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in South Korea has topped 890 with 60 additional cases reported on Tuesday (Feb 25), while the death toll rose to eight.
February 25, 2020 | 10:43
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South Korea's virus alert level has been raised to 'red'. AFP/-

South Korea reported its 60 more cases - its smallest increase in four days.

The country now has 893 cases, said the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) in its morning update.

For the previous three days, KCDC had reported triple-digit increases each morning as the outbreak took hold in South Korea, the world's 12th-largest economy.

Of the additional infections, 49 were reported in Daegu and the adjacent North Gyeongsang Province, which have quickly emerged as the hardest-hit areas in the country since the confirmation of the first patient in the southeastern city last Tuesday.

Gyeonggi Province followed with five cases, while Busan and Seoul reported three and two cases, respectively. South Gyeongsang Province also confirmed one more patient.

The cumulative number of those diagnosed with the disease in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province so far stood at 500 and 231, respectively. The two areas combined account for 81-point-nine percent of nationwide infections.

Most of the country's infections are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu. A 61-year-old female member developed a fever on Feb 10, but attended at least four church services before being diagnosed.

The death toll from the virus remained at eight, including a 67-year-old man, the nation’s 107th COVID-19 patient.

The man died at Kyungpook National University Hospital in Daegu while under treatment. He was taken there last Tuesday ​from Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo County in North Gyeongsang Province after developing pneumonia-like symptoms. He tested positive for the virus two days later.

President Moon Jae-in on Sunday said that the government "will raise the alert level to the highest level of 'grave' according to experts' recommendations and drastically strengthen our response system".

He also urged officials not to hesitate from taking "unprecedented powerful measures" to contain the outbreak.

The escalation in the alert level allows the government to send extra resources to Daegu and nearby Cheongdo – a county that also saw surges in confirmed cases in recent weeks.

The alert level also enables the government to forcibly prevent public activities and order the temporary closure of schools, the health ministry said, though it gave few details of immediate measures.

The outbreak has forced South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics to suspend operations at its smartphone plant in Gumi, 200km southeast of Seoul, after one of its employees was infected at the weekend.


South Korean health authorities have also said that they plan to test potentially more than 200,000 members of the church.

On Tuesday, the church leader said it had agreed to provide authorities with the names of all its members in South Korea, estimated by media at about 215,000 people.

The government plans to conduct coronavirus tests on all of the members "as soon as possible" once it has the information, the prime minister's office said in a statement.

"We have constantly requested the list based on our assessment that it is essential to test all of the church members in order to contain the spread of the virus and relieve public anxiety," the statement said.

A total of 35-thousand-823 people in the nation have been tested for COVID-19, with 13-thousand-273 currently waiting on results, KBS reported.


South Korea's parliament cancelled sessions Tuesday as it closed for cleaning after confirmation a person with the coronavirus had attended a meeting last week. It is set to reopen Wednesday morning.

The leader of the main opposition United Future party Hwang Kyo-ahn had to be tested along with other senior party officials as they had come into contact with the patient, but all tested negative.

With the surge in infection numbers, the United States and South Korea were considering scaling back a military exercise planned for this spring because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The commander of US forces in South Korea, General Robert Abrams, and the head of that country's joint chiefs of staff, General Park Han-ki, "are looking at scaling back the command post training due to concerns about the coronavirus", US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a news conference.

His South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo, said at the same briefing that 13 servicemen from his country have become infected with the virus and that all leave for the military has been cancelled nationwide so as to limit soldiers' movements.

"The situation is quite serious," Jeong said.

The two countries have significantly scaled back traditional joint military exercises so as to facilitate US nuclear talks with North Korea.

This spring they planned to hold a command coordination exercise./.

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