Seoul, Feb 21 (IANS) South Korea on Friday declared Daegu and Cheongdo “special care zones” following the sudden spike in coronavirus infections in the two southeastern cities in the last two days.
On Thursday, South Korea announced the first COVID-19 death in the country after the virus was detected in a man who died the previous day from pneumonia at a hospital in Cheongdo, where other patients were also infected, reports Efe news.
An alarming total of 53 new infections were announced on Thursday, 51 of which were in Cheongdo and Daegu, 230 km southeast of Seoul.
On Friday, 52 new cases were reported with 41 of those in Daegu and neighbouring North Gyeongsang province, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 156, according to Yonhap news agency.
“The government will take special measures by declaring the Daegu and Cheongdo areas as special care zones as a sudden rise in confirmed cases was reported there,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Friday.
Until further details of the government’s plan are released, a special package of 2.5 billion won ($2.1 million) was activated on Thursday to bolster health security in Daegu and North Gyeongsang, which have a total population of 5 million.
Twenty-four doctors have also been sent to the city, and the number of centers for virus detection is to be expanded.
Of the 52 new cases on Friday, 39 are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, where a woman – considered a probable “super spreader” – attended worship services, the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
A mass at the church in Daegu last week was attended by the 61-year-old woman, who was diagnosed with the virus this week, and some 1,000 worshipers.
The woman also recently visited Cheongdo, where the first victim of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in South Korea died.
Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin on Thursday urged the city’s 2.4 million residents to stay home.