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Next 10 days crucial for containment of coronavirus spread: Seoul

National 19:05 February 23, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Sunday that the next seven or 10 days will be the most crucial juncture in the fight against the new coronavirus, vowing to take all possible measures to prevent further spread of the potentially fatal illness.

The country raised its alert level to the highest of "red," to deal with COVID-19 virus in its latest heightened response to the confirmation of hundreds of additional cases over the weekend.

So far, the country has reported a total of 602 virus cases, and five deaths from the novel coronavirus.

South Korea said while the disease is currently spreading within limited groups and areas, the decision was necessary amid the looming possibility that the virus may further spread across the country.

Most confirmed cases centered around a religious organization in the country's fourth-largest city of Daegu and a hospital in the neighboring county of Cheongdo and North Gyeongsang Province.

"The COVID-19 is spreading quickly, but it is limited within a specific region and group," Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a briefing. "We are focusing all efforts to eradicate the virus within Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province."

Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo speaks during a press meeting held in Seoul on Feb. 23, 2020. (Yonhap)

The health minister said the government will secure 609 beds in Daegu to accommodate the virus-infected patients, with around 1,000 more to be made available across the country.

South Korea said it will be capable of acquiring 10,000 beds nationwide. Seoul will also designate some 43 hospitals throughout the country to treat patients with lighter symptoms.

South Korea especially advised residents of Daegu to refrain from going outside for next two weeks, and urged those with symptoms to visit designated public health centers.

While the overseas spread of the virus is expected to continue, South Korea said it is confident that the spread of the new coronavirus will eventually be fully curbed here.

"South Korea has advanced medical systems, experts, and technologies and is capable of coping with COVID-19," Park said.

To better cope with the spread, South Korea said it will open a central headquarters in charge of the COVID-19 outbreak, which will be led by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kun. It marked the first time for a prime minister to take such a position.

colin@yna.co.kr
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