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(2nd LD) To contain virus, PM urges people to refrain from holding mass gatherings

All News 22:39 February 22, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info from para 2)

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's prime minister called the fast spread of the new coronavirus in the country a "grave" situation on Saturday and urged people to refrain from attending mass gatherings.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun also sternly warned against any acts that interfere with the government's quarantine efforts and spark public uneasiness, such as large outdoor rallies.

"The government judges the COVID-19 infections have entered a 'grave' situation and is doing its best to contain the spread of the virus," Chung said in a televised public message.

Apologizing to the public for the latest situation, Chung stressed the need for people's active cooperation with the government's quarantine efforts.

The prime minister made a special call for people to refrain from attending mass gatherings, including religious events in crowded places, and to devise other ways to carry them out.

South Korea reported 229 additional cases of the new coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections in the nation to 433.

The number of COVID-19 infections here has soared in the past few days, with most infections traced to a hospital in the southeastern county of Cheongdo and a church of a minor Christian sect in the southeastern city of Daegu, which constitute some 80 percent of the total infections here.

"In accordance with law and principles, the government will sternly deal with acts that interfere with quarantine efforts, illegal hoarding of medical goods and acts that spark uneasiness through massive rallies," Chung said.

A group of Protestant followers, led by conservative pastor Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, pushed ahead with a massive rally at Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul on Saturday, despite the Seoul city government's warning.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon announced Thursday that the city government would ban the use of public plazas in central Seoul for outdoor rallies as part of drastic measures to fight the spreading coronavirus.

Chung also voiced confidence of overcoming the situation if people cooperate with and trust quarantine authorities.

"COVID-19 would have no place to hide if people informed the government about every situation as it relates to the virus," he stressed.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun issues a public message calling for people to cooperate with the government's efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, at the government complex in Seoul, on Feb. 22, 2020. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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