S.Korea confirms 100 more cases of novel coronavirus, 204 in total

From the 100 new cases reported on Friday, 86 were in Daegu, a city 300km (186 miles) south-east of the capital Seoul, and almost all of those were from a cluster involving the religious sect. "We will proactively provide necessary assistance including sickbeds, personnel, and equipment", the PM said in a meeting with senior officials.

The streets of South Korea's fourth-largest city were abandoned on Thursday, with residents holed up indoors after dozens of people caught the new coronavirus in what authorities described as a "super-spreading event" at a church. The patient, who had been bedridden for years, was not publicly named.

Dongseong-ro, normally one of the city's busiest shopping districts, had only small clusters of pedestrians passing through during the afternoon and the normally bustling plaza at the city's main train station was virtually empty.

The mayor also raised concern that the city's hospitals may hit their maximum capacity soon.

A representative of Daegu's transportation authority told UPI ridership has dropped drastically since the number of COVID-19 cases in Daegu began soaring on Wednesday, falling by nearly half on Thursday. The daily figure is down from 889 on Friday. Aside from the one dead patient, 187 are receiving treatments in isolatation. Eight hundred area schools, due to start a new academic year on March 2, delayed their openings by a week.

Kwon cautioned that at least 90 more of the about 1,000 other people who attended services at the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony were also showing symptoms.

An owner of a nearby grocery store said business has been extremely slow.

'The victims of the disease now are the Shincheonji believers, ' he said. "It's really making me insane".

She said she is nervous because of her location near the epicenter of the virus in Daegu.

"These dots are very concerning - take them as dots or trends", he said.

Many in the city have begun looking at the Shincheonji church, which claims some 200,000 members worldwide, with a mix of suspicion and blame.

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More than 100 virus patients have been traced to the church's services.

KCDC said 4,475 Shincheonji members had been tested in Daegu and 544 said they had symptoms.

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"After learning of the incident, the police have immediately arranged that all colleagues immediately stop police work, avoid contact with the public, and go home to wait for quarantine arrangements", the department said in the statement.

Citizens have said that they have never seen Daegu like this, not even during the MERS outbreak in 2015.

The woman was quarantined because public health authorities believed she might have been infected with COVID-19.

Major rallies have been banned in central Seoul, where 18 people have tested positive for the virus so far.

Chinese authorities placed the city of 11 million under quarantine on January 23 and quickly locked down the rest of the province in the days that followed.

President Moon Jae-in called for a "thorough investigation" of everyone who attended the funeral and Shincheonji services.

"We are inspired by this craze but this is no time for complacency", Environment Wellness Corporation (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus instructed a briefing in Geneva.

  • Sonia Alvarado