|Heath officials in protective gear stand outside Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province, Monday. Yonhap|
South Korea reported its seventh coronavirus-related death Monday, with five of the seven victims linked to a hospital in the southeastern county of Cheongdo, where delayed steps may have led to mass infections.
The country has 763 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday ― and more than 110 people, including nine medical staff, have been confirmed to be infected at Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
The hospital began to see infection cases only last week, nearly a month after South Korea reported its first confirmed case on Jan. 20.
However, reports suggest many patients at the hospital began to show symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever and coughing, as early as Feb. 15.
At least one patient from the hospital's closed ward was said to have been taken to a different hospital for additional tests and treatment for such symptoms, but was returned to the Cheongdo hospital a day before he or she was diagnosed with the novel virus.
All infected patients at the Cheongdo hospital came from a closed ward, while the total number of 112 includes nine medical staff also from that ward.
The hospital was belatedly placed under cohort isolation on Saturday.
The government raised its virus alert status to the highest "red" level on Sunday, advising people to stay inside and avoid crowds.
Meanwhile, the health ministry said Monday it would set up safe or risk-free hospitals where respiratory patients would be blocked from facilities for people with other illnesses or medical needs.
The ministry also said those with respiratory symptoms would be admitted to such hospitals only after they had tested negative for COVID-19. (Yonhap)