New virus outbreaks in China, abroad rekindle concerns

The amount of cases in South Korea could be set to soar once again as an additional 52 churchgoers have been reported to be showing symptoms of infection.

South Korean health officials said on Thursday that they were working to determine the exact cause of the death. Before she eventually was tested, she visited a hotel, a hospital and the Daegu church attended by some 1,000 members.

She said: "This is the case where some individuals can either be much more infectious than others so that they may go on and infect many people or, equally, it can be related to their contact patterns".

'We are deeply sorry that because of one of our members, who thought of her condition as a cold because she had not travelled overseas, led to many in our church being infected and thereby caused concern to the local community, ' it said in a statement. More than 400 coronavirus patients are now being treated in South Korea with many fearing that the number could rise.

The World Health Organization warned nations they could face a serious problem if they fail to "hit hard now" against the new coronavirus, which has infected more than 75,000 in China and over 1,100 overseas.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that of 329 Americans evacuated from the ship, 18 have tested positive for the virus.

Although more than 600 new infections were reported in Hubei's capital Wuhan, it was the lowest daily tally since late January and well down from the 1,749 new cases the day before.

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Richard Brennan, a World Health Organization official, said in Cairo that China was making "tremendous progress" and "trends are very encouraging, but we are not at a turning point yet".

Another centre of infection has been the Diamond Princess cruise ship held under quarantine in Japan since February 3, with more than 630 cases accounting for the biggest infection cluster outside China.

Two former passengers, both Japanese and in their 80s, died in Japan on Thursday.

Health and city officials say the woman who first tested positive had contact with some 1,160 people, both at the church, a restaurant and a hospital where she was treated for injuries from a auto accident.

Officials are also investigating a possible link between churchgoers and the spike in infections at the Cheongdo hospital, where more than 110 people have been infected so far, mostly patients at a mental illness ward.

Authorities said officials deemed responsible for the outbreaks had been fired and the government had sent a team to investigate the Shandong outbreak, media reported.

"I don't want to oppose the opinion that the Sunday service is essential", said Shin Sung-wook, a professor at Asia United Theological University, as quoted by South Korean news agency Yonhap.

  • Delia Davidson