South Korean cases jump, China counts 150 more virus deaths

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — South Korea reported another large jump in new virus cases yesterday a day after the President called for “unprecedented, powerful” steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread.

The 231 new cases bring South Korea’s total to 833, and two more deaths raise its toll to seven.

China also reported 409 new cases yesterday, raising the mainland’s total to 77,150 after a zigzag pattern of increases in recent days. The 150 new deaths from the COVID-19 illness raised China’s total to 2,592 and showed a spike after hovering around 100 for four days. All but one death were in Hubei province, where the outbreak emerged in December.

Significant jumps in cases outside China have raised concern of the outbreak getting out of control. South Korea has the third-highest national total behind China and Japan, and cases have rapidly increased in Italy and Iran in just a few days.

Most of Japan’s cases were from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where nearly one-fifth of its 3,711 passengers and crew became infected.

More than 140 of South Korea’s new cases were in and near Daegu, the city of 2.5 million people where most of the country’s infections have occurred. Five of the seven deaths were linked to a hospital in Cheongdo, near Daegu, where a slew of infections were confirmed among patients in a mental ward.

A woman wearing a face mask passes by the statue of King Sejong in the Joseon Dynasty, at the Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday. PHOTO: AP

While officials have expressed hope they could contain the outbreak to the region surrounding Daegu, some experts noted signs of the virus circulating nationwide, pointing to a number of cases in the capital, Seoul, and elsewhere that weren’t immediately traceable.

“In Daegu, the number of new cases that are being confirmed by tests is quite large, and if we fail to effectively stem community transmissions in this area, there would be a large possibility (that the illness) spreads nationwide,” South Korean Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing, saying that the government aims to stabilise Daegu’s situation in four weeks.