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S.Korean government vows all-out quarantine for Daegu as 144 new COVID-19 cases confirmed

17:11 | 25/02/2020

The South Korea's government designated Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province as special management areas for infectious disease Tuesday (Feb 25), vowing to use all possible quarantine measures to stop the COVID-19 virus from spreading outside these areas.

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President Moon Jae-in speaks during a meeting in Daegu, Feb 25 2020. Photo: Yonhap

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on Tuesday afternoon confirmed the tenth death, 144 new infections, taking the tally to 977, the largest national total anywhere outside China, where the virus first emerged.

The ninth fatality occurred in Chilgok Kyungpook National Hospital in Daegu where she had been treated for an abdominal condition before developing symptoms of pneumonia the day before her death. Her test was later determined to be positive for the virus.

"The best way to stop the virus from spreading would be to seal off the affected areas completely, not physically but in terms of a quarantine," said Democratic Party of Korea spokesman Hong Ik-pyo, following a meeting with the government.

With the move, the government will mobilize the military, police and volunteer medical service providers to enforce quarantine efforts in the areas.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Daegu the same day and pledged the central government's support for the city's fight against the virus. "Today, the central government has opened up all possible resources. We will do all we can do to help Daegu contain the situation."

Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun moved to Daegu and will stay there to coordinate the quarantine effort.

The streets of Daegu - which has a population of 2.5 million - have been largely deserted for days, apart from long queues at the few shops with masks for sale.

Authorities urged the public to exercise extra caution, advising citizens to stay home if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

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.

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.

Most of South Korea's infections are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

A 61-year-old female member developed a fever on Feb 10, but attended at least four church services in Daegu before being diagnosed.

The authorities in Daegu and North Gyeongsan Province are continuing to look for Shincheonji Church members and those who came into contact with them. More than half of all confirmed patients here had a connection to Shincheonji.

To address a mask shortage, the government is restricting exports from today and is increasing supplies to public organizations so they can distribute them to people in need. Masks have become a scarce commodity in Korea pushing up the price exponentially on the market. For example, 100 masks were offered at an online shopping mall for 300,000 won.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it was considering importing the ebola virus medicine Avigan from Japan to treat patients in a serious condition. Avigan is not authorized in Korea yet. AIDS and malaria medications have also been mentioned as treatments./.

VNF/CNA/Korea Times