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S. Korea reports 93 new virus cases, total now at 8,413

Welfare/Medicine 10:21 March 18, 2020

SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported 93 new cases of the new coronavirus Wednesday, up from 84 new cases a day earlier, bringing the nation's total infections to 8,413, as health authorities have stayed alert for cluster infections across the nation.

The 93 new cases, which were detected on Tuesday, marked the fourth straight day that daily new infections were in the double digits.

So far, 84 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.

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

Medical staff at Dongsan Hospital in virus-hit Daegu head for an intensive care unit dedicated to treating coronavirus patients on March 17, 2020. (Yonhap)

The pace of daily new infections has shown marked signs of slowing since the second week of this month as health authorities completed extensive testing of 210,000 Shincheonji followers at the center of the rapid spread, but the authorities are still on high alert over new clusters of infections, including at a call center in Seoul's Guro district and Protestant churches in Gyeonggi Province.

Of the 93 new cases, 46 are in Daegu and nine are in North Gyeongsang, the KCDC said. The total number of confirmed cases in Daegu and North Gyeongsang, the two epicenters of the virus outbreak here, stood at 6,144 and 1,178, respectively.

Other major provinces and cities have also reported some infections, with Seoul reporting five additional cases. The total number of imported virus cases rose by five to 11.

With unknown virus sufferers who have not developed symptoms apparently causing significant numbers of infections, the government has called for people to avoid non-essential gatherings in crowded places, such as religious facilities, nursing homes, internet cafes and karaoke rooms.

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.

On Sunday, the government designated Daegu and three other hard-hit areas in North Gyeongsang as "special disaster zones," allowing it to subsidize about half of the recovery spending and exempt people there from taxes and utility fees.

The World Health Organization declared last week that the global coronavirus crisis is a pandemic as the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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