|Citizens in Daegu wait in long lines to buy facial masks in front of E-mart's Manchon branch, Monday, as the number of coronavirus patients has been skyrocketing in the region. Yonhap|
Korea reports 231 additional coronavirus cases, 8th death
By Jun Ji-hye
Korea confirmed 231 additional cases of the new coronavirus and the eighth virus-related death Monday, reporting another record spike in the overall tally ― 833 people infected ― according to government and hospital officials.
Most new cases continued to be centered in Daegu, forcing the health authorities to shift the focus of their fight against COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) to containing any further spread across the country.
Kyungpook National University Hospital in Daegu said a 57-year-old man who was confirmed as the nation's 94th patient, died at 4:11 p.m., becoming the eighth fatality. He had tested positive for the virus while hospitalized at Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province, near Daegu, and was moved to Kyungpook for treatment.
Earlier in the day, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said a 62-old-man who also tested positive for the virus at Daenam Hospital had died Sunday, the seventh fatality.
Six out of the eight coronavirus deaths have been traced to Daenam Hospital where more than 110 people including medical staff and other employees are confirmed to have been infected.
Patient numbers from the infection cluster at the Shincheonji Church in Daegu have continued to increase sharply. Among the 231 newly confirmed patients, 129 attended services at the minor Christian sect.
The health authorities are working to determine the infection vectors for the remaining cases.
Nearly 700 infections out of the total 833 have been traced to Daegu and the adjacent North Gyeongsang Province, with the number expected to increase further, despite quarantine officials' efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
"If the government fails to effectively contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Daegu, the virus is highly likely to spread nationwide," Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters during a briefing. "The government is mobilizing all possible means with the aim of stopping the spread of the virus in the Daegu region."
He noted the government is cooperating with municipalities in the region to carry out quarantine activities, adding that the health authorities were working to find and question all members of the Shincheonji Church, and conduct tests.
Kim also said the authorities will check about 28,000 Daegu citizens who have exhibited flu-like symptoms that are similar to the initial symptoms associated with COVID-19, over the next two weeks in a bid to swiftly identify patients and quarantine them.
"The government is aiming to stabilize the situation in Daegu in the next four weeks," he said.
In a bid to create a "pan-national" force to help ride out the public health crisis, National Police Agency Commissioner General Min Gab-ryong said he had allocated 618 officers to trace the whereabouts of some members of the Shincheonji Church, whom the health authorities have been unable to contact.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety sent an additional 1 million face masks to Daegu and Cheongdo after sending 2.21 million to the region Friday.
Meanwhile, KCDC Director Jung Eun-kyeong said child coronavirus patients under the age of 10 who have been hospitalized were in fair conditions.
"A 16-month-old patient in Gimpo is undergoing treatment at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital with her father who had also been infected with the virus," Jung said. "A four-year-old child patient in Daegu is undergoing treatment at Daegu Medical Center. Both of them are in fair condition."
The 16-month-old child is a daughter of the couple in their 30s living in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, who were both confirmed to have been infected with the virus after attending a wedding ceremony in Daegu, which was also attended by the 31st patient.
The 31st patient is a 61-year-old woman who attended services at the Shincheonji Church.