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(2nd LD) S. Korea's virus cases near 6,000, another virus-hit city under special care

All News 11:58 March 05, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS media briefing, details in para 2, paras 9-13)

SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported 438 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the nation's total number of infections to 5,766, with most new virus infections still identified in the southeastern city of Daegu, the epicenter of the virus outbreak here.

The 438 additional cases, which were detected on Wednesday, followed the 516 new cases detected on Tuesday and the 600 on Monday, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

So far, 35 people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses, have died in South Korea from the respiratory virus that emerged in China late last year, the KCDC said.

About 60 percent of confirmed cases have been linked to a branch of the Shincheonji religious sect in Daegu, the country's fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million.

However, health authorities have shifted their focus to testing ordinary citizens in Daegu, citing an alarming level of community spread in the city.

Medical staffers use band-aids to cover wounds on their faces caused by wearing protective goggles for long hours while treating coronavirus patients at Dongsan Hospital in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on March 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

Of the 438 new cases, 320 are in Daegu and 87 in neighboring North Gyeongsang Province, the two epicenters of the virus outbreak here, the KCDC said.

The total confirmed cases in Daegu and North Gyeongsang stood at 4,326 and 861, respectively.

Other major provinces and cities have also reported infections, with Seoul seeing four additional case, bringing its total to 103. South Gyeongsang Province's caseload climbed by nine to 74. New cases were also reported in several provinces, including Gyeonggi, Gangwon and South Chungcheong.

Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip told reporters that the government had designated the southeastern city of Gyeongsan, which is adjacent to both Daegu and Cheongdo County, as the nation's third "special care zone" over virus infections.

Along with Daegu, Cheongdo, where a total of 116 infections have been identified so far, was designated as such on Feb. 21. The central government provides more medical resources and staff to these zones.

Gyeongsan in North Gyeongsang has reported a total of 229 confirmed cases, Kim said.

In a fresh precautionary measure, the government extended child care center breaks by another two weeks to March 22, Kim said. Spring semesters of all elementary, middle and high schools have already been delayed to March 23.

Since raising the virus alert level to "red," the highest level, on Feb. 23, health authorities have focused on halting the spread of the virus in Daegu and North Gyeongsang.

In some positive news, South Korea released 47 fully recovered coronavirus patients on Wednesday, marking the biggest number of cured virus patients on a daily basis, the KCDC said.

So far, South Korea has released 88 fully recovered novel coronavirus patients from hospitals as of Wednesday, the KCDC said.

The number of people being checked for the virus and under quarantine came to 21,810 as of Wednesday, down 6,604 from the day before, it added. The country has tested a total of 140,775 suspected cases, with 118,965 testing negative.

A medical worker shivers in the cold at a special facility set up to treat coronavirus patients at a public hospital in Seoul on March 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

Currently, there is no evidence that the new coronavirus is airborne. The World Health Organization said the virus is transmitted through droplets or close contact. The best measures to protect yourself from the virus are to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and avoid mass gatherings, health officials said.

To help raise awareness of the virus among foreigners in South Korea, Arirang TV and the state-run Korea Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) said they are offering simultaneous English-language translation services on daily media briefings by health authorities via Arirang TV's YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/arirang) and KOCIS' website (www.korea.net).

kdh@yna.co.kr
(END)

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