South Korea virus cases rise faster than China

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea reported 571 new novel coronavirus cases on Friday, taking its total – the highest in the world outside China – to 2,337, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

That was a larger increase than the 327 reported by China, where nearly 2,800 people have died.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that all countries should ensure their health systems were prepared for an outbreak. The epidemic was at a “decisive point” globally, its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday and countries could still contain the epidemic if they “act aggressively now”.

The South has an advanced healthcare system and a free media, factors observers say improve the reliability of its statistics, and its numbers are expected to rise further as it carries out checks on more than 260,000 people associated with the church in Daegu.

Army soldiers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus at the Dongdaegu train station in Daegu, South Korea, Saturday. (PHOTO: AP)

The secretive entity is linked to around half of the nation’s cases.

A 61-year-old female member developed a fever on February 10, but attended at least four church services in Daegu – the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million – before being diagnosed.

More than 85 per cent of South Korea’s coronavirus cases are in Daegu and the neighbouring province of North Gyeongsang, according to the KCDC. The country’s death toll remains at 13.

The new school term has been delayed by one week and the US and South Korean militaries have postponed forthcoming joint exercises.

Hyundai Motor also suspended operations at one of its Ulsan plants after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

The auto manufacturer had temporarily stopped all domestic production earlier this month because of a lack of parts due to the outbreak in China.