South Korea Officials on Saturday said that 229 new cases had been confirmed since Friday, raising the total to 433 number of new coronavirus cases in the country
In a televised address, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun described the situation as “grave” Two patients in South Korea have died so far and there are fears the number will rise as the confirmed number of virus more than doubled in one day.
south Korean authorities said many of the new cases are linked to a hospital and to a religious group near the south-eastern city of Daegu,
Daegu and nearby Cheongdo – where the hospital is situated – have been declared “special care zones” and the streets of Daegu are reported to be largely abandoned.
South Korea has now reported the largest number of confirmed infections after China –
Medical officials first announced 142 new cases on Saturday and then hours later increased the number by 87.
In a statement, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said that of the 229 new cases, 95 were related to Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, which treats the elderly and people with mental health issues. There are now 114 confirmed cases at the hospital – nine staff and 102 patients – it added.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said the outbreak had entered “a serious new phase”.
He said most of those diagnosed at the hospital had been inpatients for mental illnesses. Some cases showed “no confirmed epidemiological connections”, meaning it was not clear how they had contracted the virus, he added.
A 63-year-old man died at the hospital on Wednesday and another patient died on Friday in Busan after being transferred from Daenam Hospital, Yonhap news agency reports.
In his national address, Prime Minister Chung asked South Koreans to avoid large gatherings, including religious events.
“The government believes the situation of the Covid-19 infections is turning into a grave phase, and is making every effort to prevent the spread,” he said.
Mr Chung said the government would take action against anyone hoarding face masks or taking part in now-banned mass rallies.
KCDC said 62 new cases – 231 in total – were connected to a Christian sect in Daegu called the Shincheonji Church of Jesus
Authorities have highlighted that a large number of sect followers attended the funeral of the founder’s brother from 31 January to 2 February.