South Korea Reports 7th Death, Sees Confirmed Coronavirus Cases Exceed 760

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers US, China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
February 24, 2020Updated: February 24, 2020

South Korea on Monday morning reported 161 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and one more death.

The latest death, the seventh in the country, involves a 62-year-old man who passed away on Sunday at Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, a county in North Gyeongsang Province, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Many Koreans who have been infected are at that hospital. According to local outlet Yonhap News Agency, over 110 people, including nine medical staff, at the hospital are infected with the virus, and five deaths have been connected to the facility.

Of the 161 new cases, 131 are in Daegu, which is home to about 2.5 million people and located roughly 186 miles southeast of the capital Seoul.

Three new cases are in Seoul, two in the coastal city of Busan, and one in Gwangju, a city in the country’s southwest.

Most of the Daegu cases, 129, are linked to a super-spreader who attended services at Shincheonji Church. The 61-year-old female and the country’s 31st confirmed case tested positive for the virus on Feb. 18—the first in Daegu and the broader North Gyeongsang Province.

Now, South Korea has at least 763 known cases of coronavirus of whom 458 are connected to the church super-spreader.

South Korea has seen a huge spike in known cases in recent days, with 100 cases were reported on Friday, 229 on Saturday, and 169 on Sunday.

According to Yonhap, Korea’s Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters, “If authorities fail to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Daegu, there is a high possibility that COVID-19 could spread nationwide.”

South Korea’s defense ministry announced that 11 of its service members have now been infected with the virus, Yonhap reported on Monday.

Of the 11 cases, eight are in the Army, and one each in the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. About 7,700 Korean soldiers have been isolated at their bases.

South Korea first reported that the virus had spread to its military personnel on Friday, when an army officer, a Navy sailor, and an Air Force soldier were infected.

At the time of the writing, none of the U.S. soldiers in South Korea has been infected with the virus.

Economic Impact

Several South Korean firms have seen their operations affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Samsung Electronics said over the weekend that it has closed down its smartphone plant in Gumi, which is about 30 miles from Daegu, after one of its employees tested positive for the virus, Yonhap reported.

LG Electronics and LG Display have banned employees who live in Daegu and Cheongdo from entering their plants.

South Korean airlines are also suspending flights to Daegu.

South Korean flag carrier airline Korean Air has suspended its flights from Jeju and Incheon to Dauge until March 28, Yonhap reported on Monday.

Asiana Airlines also announced it will suspend its Daegu-Jeju flight service Feb. 25 to March 9, and Korea’s budget airline Jeju Air suspends its Daegu and Juju service from Feb. 24 to 29.

Yonhap also reported on Monday that 24 state-run history and art museums will be temporarily closed this week, citing the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

In Hong Kong, the local travel agency Hong Thai Travel Services canceled tour groups to Seoul scheduled that leave before March 15 in response to the outbreak in South Korea, local outlet RTHK reported on Monday. About 30 tour groups involving about 570 tourists are affected by the cancellation.

Currently, there are at least 74 known cases of coronavirus and two deaths in the Chinese city.