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Cluster outbreak at hospital stokes concerns of more virus deaths coming

National 12:30 February 23, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's public health authorities were on heightened alert on Sunday as three of the country's deaths from the new coronavirus have been linked to a hospital in the southeastern city of Cheongdo.

The country's fourth coronavirus death was reported earlier in the day from Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, located around 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, where the authorities imposed so-called cohort isolation, a special quarantine measure to take care of patients with the same disease in a group.

Having confirmed the country's first COVID-19 case on Jan. 20, South Korea has focused on curbing the spread of the virus. And it's now confronted with another urgent task of combating fatalities.

This picture, taken on Feb. 20, 2020, shows Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, 320 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The hospital has been placed under cohort isolation, with patients and staff placed in quarantine, after more than 110 people, including nine medical staff, tested positive for the novel coronavirus. (Yonhap)

The hospital reported a cluster outbreak of the potentially fatal illness, with more than 110 people, including nine medical staff, found to be infected with the novel coronavirus.

Among the four deaths reported so far in South Korea in connection with the epidemic, three were patients at the hospital, all of whom were in their 50s or 60s. The other one was a 41-year-old who was found dead at his home in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

Health authorities said the exact causes of their deaths are being investigated, with pneumonia presumed to be the culprit.

The nation's health authorities are concerned that more virus cases will be identified at the hospital as most patients have underlying illnesses.

Transmissions taking place in hospitals and clinics are alsoo of grave concern because of the risk of exposing sick people, who are more vulnerable to infections, to the virus.

Over the past few days, South Korea announced hundreds of additional COVID-19 cases centered in Daegu, a three-hour drive southeast of Seoul, and the nearby town of Cheondo.

Most of the cases are tied to members of a minor Christian sect, known as Sincheonji, and people whom they have contacted. A so-called super spreader recently attended hourslong collective worship services at a Daegu church.

Medical workers transfer a suspected coronavirus patient from Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, 320 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to another hospital on Feb. 21, 2020. (Yonhap)

lcd@yna.co.kr
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