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(2nd LD) S. Korea reports 4th coronavirus death as cases spike to 556

National 11:47 February 23, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout, photo)

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported its fourth death from the new coronavirus on Sunday and added 123 new cases to bring the total confirmed cases to 556.

Three of the four coronavirus deaths were from Daenam Hospital in the southeastern city of Cheongdo, where the country's first COVID-19 fatality took place and more than 110 people, including nine medical staff, were found to be infected.

The number of COVID-19 infections more than doubled in a single day on Saturday, with most cases centered around a religious organization in the country's fourth-largest city of Daegu and the neighboring Daenam Hospital.

Of the 123 new cases, 75 are related to worship services of the Shincheonji church in the southeastern city of Daegu, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The infected cases that can be traced to the church services hovered above 300 as of Sunday morning, accounting for more than half of the total cases here.

The KCDC said it has placed more than 9,000 Shincheonji members in self-quarantine.

Streets in downtown Daegu, located around 300 kilometers south of Seoul, are nearly empty on Feb. 23, 2020, as residents avoided going outside amid the spread of the new coronavirus in the city. (Yonhap)

Some 90 new cases were in Daegu, which has a population of roughly 2.5 million, with 20 new virus incidents reported in the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province, it added.

Gwangju and Jeju also reported one more case each, while the southern port city of Busan reported two more patients, in a sign that the virus may spread quickly nationwide.

South Korea has released 18 fully recovered novel coronavirus patients from hospitals as of Sunday morning, the KCDC said.

The number of people being checked for the virus and under quarantine came to 6,039, it added. The country has tested a total of 22,633 suspected cases, with 16,038 testing negative.

South Korea confirmed its first new coronavirus case from a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, on Jan. 20.

The country's 31st patient, a probable "super spreader," had attended Shincheonji's worship services in Daegu.

Still, the authorities have kept the virus alert at the third-highest, or "orange," level, but the virus response will be carried out with an urgency appropriate to the "red" level.

On Friday, South Korea declared that Daegu and its adjacent county Cheongdo are "special care zones."

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, in a rare public message on Saturday night, reassured people that the virus can be contained if the public cooperates with the government's instructions.

A catholic church located in Daegu, around 300 kilometers south of Seoul, is closed Feb. 23, 2020 to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the city. (Yonhap)


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