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(LEAD) S. Korea's virus cases top 6,700, mass infection reported at apartment in Daegu

All News 12:12 March 07, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout; RESTRUCTURES; minor edits)

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported 483 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the nation's total number of infections to 6,767, with most new virus infections still in the southeastern city of Daegu, the epicenter of the virus outbreak here, and neighboring North Gyeongsang Province.

So far, 44 people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses, have died in South Korea from the respiratory virus that emerged in China late last year, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

The country has released 118 fully recovered novel coronavirus patients from hospitals as of Friday, up 10 from a day earlier, the KCDC added.

A medical staffer takes a sample from a potential COVID-19 patient aboard an ambulance at a makeshift drive-thru clinic for coronavirus patients in Daegu, 300 kilometers south of Seoul, on March 6, 2020. (Yonhap)

Of the 483 new cases, which were detected on Friday, a majority were reported in the country's southeastern region. Daegu and neighboring North Gyeongsang Province reported 390 and 65 more cases, respectively, according to the KCDC.

The total cases in the two hardest-hit regions reached 6,133, accounting for 90.6 percent of the total infections here, with some 5,000 virus patients coming from Daegu.

Other major provinces and cities have also reported some infections, with Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province reporting three and 10 more cases, respectively. Cases in North Chungcheongapartment Province also increased by five.

Residents at an apartment in Daegu have been put into group isolation following mass infections at the residential complex.

The city's health authorities said 46 out of 142 residents at the apartment were confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19.

They added that 94 of the residents were found to be followers of the religious sect at the center of cluster infections in the city.

About 60 percent of the country's confirmed cases have been linked to a Daegu branch of the fringe religious sect Shincheonji.

The city government said it has sent text messages to the apartment residents notifying them of a full entry and exit ban, which applies to all residents and delivery workers.

The apartment block, which consists of two five-story buildings, is run by the city for unmarried women who are under 35 years old.

A Women's Korean Basketball League (WKBL) regular season game between the home team BNK Sum and Shinhan Bank S-Birds is under way behind closed doors at BNK Center in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on March 6, 2020. (Yonhap)

The country's health authorities again advised people to refrain from unnecessary activities and avoid crowded areas over the weekend, citing that the next few days are likely to be "critical."

"Nationwide infections in areas outside of special care zones have stagnated, but to make a clear judgment, the next few days will be critical," Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip told reporters.

Kim said the health authorities will be focusing on detecting patients among ordinary citizens in Daegu, the country's fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million.

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.

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

Soldiers disinfect Daegu International Airport on March 6, 2020, as part of measures against the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)


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