Feb 20, 2020

Coronavirus: South Korean church cluster in Daegu brings total number of cases to 46

A bus carrying seven people evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan enters a quarantine centre in Incheon, South Korea on February 19, 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE
Ten people diagnosed with the Covid-19 disease attended the same church a 61-year-old woman who was Case 31

The new cases came as South Korea brought back seven people from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan

Reuters and Agence France-Presse
February 19, 2020

The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea rose to 46 on Wednesday, after 15 new cases were reported, including a cluster seen in a church in the southeastern city of Daegu.
Of the new cases, 13 were in Daegu and the neighbouring North Gyeongsang province, said the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), and eleven were believed to be linked to a single patient, a 61-year-old woman.

Ten of them attend the same church as the woman, who was the 31st case, the KCDC said.

The 61-year-old woman had first developed a fever on February 10 but reportedly refused to be tested for the coronavirus on the grounds that she had not recently travelled abroad.

She was not put into quarantine until a week later and was confirmed as South Korea’s 31st case on Tuesday.

The woman and the 10 others attend the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which has issued a notice to followers across the country to stop gathering and attend prayer sessions online.

The news that Case 31 and a few others diagnosed with the Covid-19 disease had neither travelled abroad nor come into contact other infected patients has fuelled concerns of the rise of community transmissions in South Korea.

"We keep the possibility open that the virus has passed through the quarantine nets to start community transmissions,” Noh Hong-in, a senior government official in charge of fighting the virus, told journalists.

Daegu City Mayor Kwon Young-jin urged residents to put on protective face masks, wash their hands and stay away from public gatherings until the disease eased off.

The number of people in South Korea being assessed for the Covid-19 disease and under quarantine came to 1,030 as of early Wednesday, up from 818 the day, the KCDC said.
Twelve people have recovered and were discharged from hospital.

The new cases came as seven people were on Wednesday morning brought back to South Korea from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

A presidential jet landed at Gimpo airport in Seoul with six Korean nationals and a Japanese spouse, who were then taken to a medical facility in Incheon to be quarantined.

Health authorities had said there were 14 South Koreans, five of whom were crew members, on the Diamond Princess, including those who arrived on Wednesday’s flight.

Elderly guests to leave first as Diamond Princess quarantine

South Korea last week sent a third chartered flight to evacuate South Koreans and their Chinese family members from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the epidemic.

Seoul has blocked entry to foreigners coming from Hubei, the Chinese province that is the epicentre of the outbreak, and suspended visa-free entry to the island of Jeju, popular with Chinese tourists, but has not imposed a general ban on arrivals from mainland China.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said there are no indications that there are cases of the new coronavirus in North Korea, despite South Korean media reports suggesting the outbreak had spread to the isolated country.

“At the moment there are no signals, there are no indications we are dealing with any Covid-19 there,” Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

WHO officials had “no reason to believe that there are any specific issues” going on in North Korea, and would be providing authorities in the North with more laboratory supplies to conduct diagnostic tests, Ryan said.

Some media outlets in the South have reported multiple cases and possible deaths from the virus in North Korea, but there has been no independent verification.

On Tuesday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling party, quoted a public health official reiterating the country had “no confirmed case of the new coronavirus so far”.

An outbreak of the disease could be devastating for the under-resourced health system in North Korea, experts said.

Last week the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about the possible impact of a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea and was prepared to facilitate efforts by US and international organisations contain the spread of the virus there.
Aid organisations have called for exemptions from sanctions that restrict most trade and business with North Korea.

Already one of the most closed-off countries in the world, North Korea has stopped flights and train services with its neighbours, established month-long mandatory quarantines, suspended international tourism, and imposed a near-complete lockdown on cross-border travel.

The WHO has prioritised aid for North Korea, and a shipment of protective equipment and supplies was due to be shipped there this week, Ryan said.

“The government is very anxious as you can imagine, as all governments are, to make preparations and are seeking our technical and operational assistance to help them get ready,” he said.

Additional reporting by Park Chan-kyong


No comments: