The Coronavirus is starting to take hold outside of China and, with a sharp increase in confirmed infections, South Korea is now stepping up measures to contain the virus, closing off two southern cities as well as suspending military operations.
Following a rise of 53 cases of infection in the country on Thursday, a further 52 were confirmed on Friday in what Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has described as an emergency situation.
According to the BBC, the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo have been designated as “special care zones”. The streets of Daegu, the fourth-largest city in the country have been all but abandoned after its 2.5 million residents were asked to remain at home. It is suspected that a “super-spreading event” occurred within a religious sect, which is reported to have been at the heart of an outbreak in infections. The Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony is what is being described as a “cluster”, after it was attended by a 61-year-old who health officials believe to be the primary carrier, having tested positive for the virus earlier this week. The church has shut down its operations in Daegu, among accusations of being a cult. Services around the country will now be conducted online.
As of Friday, 400 church members are showing symptoms, although tests are still ongoing.
“It is urgent to find people who have contacted infected people and cure patients,” Prime Minister Chung said according to news agency Yonhap.
South Korea is now the second worst affected country, after China, with 156 cases of the Sars-CoV-2 disease in the country, with 41 in Daegu, which is 300km away from the capital of Seoul. Authorities also reported the first death in the country on Thursday.
Several members of the military also tested positive and it has also been locked down by the country.
Japan also has some 400 cases of infection docked on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where patients remain quarantined after 14 days. Some 150 of those cruise ship passengers were evacuated and released to their home country, Australia, and docked in Darwin where they will begin a further two weeks of quarantine. Six of those people were feeling unwell and were tested immediately.
The death toll now stands at 2,236 out of 75,000 people in infected in China and there are now more than 1,000 cases and several deaths in the rest of Asia, in Europe, the US and Africa.