South Korea Reports 4th Death, Sees Confirmed Cases Surpass 500

February 22, 2020 Updated: February 23, 2020
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South Korea on Sunday morning reported 123 new cases of the novel coronavirus and one additional death. Four people have now died in the country as at least 556 cases have been confirmed.

The latest fatality involves a 57-year-old patient at Daenam Hospital at Cheongdo, a county in North Gyeongsang Province, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The country’s first two deaths were also reported from the same hospital, including a 63-year-old man who tested positive posthumously.

On Friday, a 54-year-old woman died from COVID-19 at a hospital in the Korean port city of Busan after she was transferred from Daenam Hospital, according to KCDC.

Also on Friday, the KCDC reported that a man in his 40s had died from the virus at his home in the coastal city of Gyeongju.

Of the 123 new cases reported on Sunday, 75 are related to the super-spreader from Shincheonji Church in the Daegu—the fourth-largest city in South Korea with a population of 2.5 million.

Over 300 cases have since been traced to the church after the 61-year-old female super-spreader who attended the church tested positive on Feb. 18. She was South Korea’s 31st confirmed case.

According to the KCDC, more than 9,000 church members are now under self-quarantine.

On Friday, Daegu and Cheongdo were declared “special management zones” by South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun due to a large number of confirmed cases in the two locations. By late Saturday, Chung said in a nationally televised address that the virus outbreak had entered “a more grave stage” while reassuring South Koreans that the government was making all-out efforts to contain further spread of the disease. Chung added that any acts that hamper national quarantine efforts will be dealt with sternly.

Sunday also marked the third consecutive day the South Korean government reported triple-digits in new cases. 100 new cases were reported on Friday and 229 on Saturday.

On Saturday, U.S. Force Korea said that there remain “zero confirmed cases” of the virus among U.S. military personnel despite the rise in known cases in the country. Three South Korean soldiers are among those infected with the virus.

Governments around the world have now taken preventive measures toward travelers from both South Korea and Japan. Japan has 135 known cases of coronavirus and three deaths.

The U.S. CDC has raised the travel advisories for Japan and South Korea to “Alert Level 2,” calling for exercising “increased caution” as opposed to “usual precautions” when traveling to the two countries.

The CDC states that the two countries are “experiencing sustained community transmission of respiratory illness caused” by COVID-19.

Taiwan has also raised its travel advisories to level 2 alerts for both South Korea and Japan, telling travelers to take preventive action against infection when visiting the two neighboring countries, local newspaper Taiwan News reported on Saturday. The island has a three-level system: watch, alert, and warning.

So far, Taiwan is aware of at least 26 known cases of the virus on the island. One local man in his 60s was the island’s first death.

On Saturday evening, Israeli authorities ordered a Korean flight landing at Tel Avis’s Ben-Gurion Airport to return to South Korea with about 200 foreigners aboard, after allowing 12 Israel nationals to disembark, according to local newspaper The Jerusalem Post.

The denial of entry came as Israel’s Health Ministry announced that nine South Korean, who had been in Israel as part of a 77-member travel group, had tested positive for the virus after returning home, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

According to the ministry’s published itinerary, the Korean travel group was in Israel from Feb. 8 to 15, visiting places such as West Bank and Masada National Park.

All travelers returning to Israel from South Korea and Japan are now required to remain in isolation for two weeks after their arrival, according to the ministry.

About 1,000 tourists from South Korea currently in Israel have been told to avoid public places, and to isolate themselves in their hotels, the Post reported.

With reporting from The Associated Press.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer