Coronavirus: South Korea declares highest alert as infections surge

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Market workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant at a market in the south-eastern city of Daegu on February 23, 2020Image copyright AFP
Image caption The South Korean metropolis of Daegu has seen the most important improve in infections

South Korea has raised its coronavirus alert to the “highest level” as confirmed case numbers preserve rising.

President Moon Jae-in stated the nation confronted “a grave turning point”, and the following few days could be essential within the battle to comprise the outbreak.

Five folks have died from the virus in South Korea and greater than 600 have been contaminated.

Meanwhile, Italy and Iran have introduced steps to attempt to comprise worrying outbreaks of the virus.

In Italy, strict quarantine restrictions are in power in two northern “hotspot” areas near Milan and Venice.

Around 50,000 folks can’t enter or go away a number of cities in Veneto and Lombardy for the following two weeks with out particular permission. Even outdoors the zone, many companies and colleges have suspended actions, and sporting occasions have been cancelled together with a number of top-flight soccer matches.

Italy has seen two deaths and the variety of confirmed circumstances has risen to greater than 100 – 89 of them in Lombardy.

“The contagiousness of this virus is very strong and pretty virulent,” stated Lombardy’s well being chief, Giulio Gallera.

Iran’s outbreak of coronavirus has considerably worsened, with the loss of life toll rising to eight on Sunday. The authorities has acknowledged 43 confirmed circumstances though officers have warned the virus might have unfold to “all cities”.

Schools, universities and cultural centres throughout 14 Iranian provinces have been closed from Sunday.

The new pressure of coronavirus, which originated final 12 months in Hubei province in China, causes a respiratory illness referred to as Covid-19. China has seen greater than 76,000 infections and a pair of,442 deaths.

On Sunday, China’s President Xi Jinping described the outbreak because the “largest public health emergency” within the nation’s latest historical past.

He acknowledged “shortcomings” in China’s response and stated classes should be discovered.

World edges nearer to coronavirus pandemic

Analysis by Fergus Walsh, BBC Health Correspondent

The mixed scenario in South Korea, Iran and Italy factors to the early phases of pandemic. This means a world outbreak, with the coronavirus spreading locally in a number of components of the world.

In every of those nations we’re seeing unfold of the virus with no connection to China. The lockdown efforts in Italy mirror people who have occurred in China.

The scenario in Iran is particularly worrying as a result of the well being authorities have reportedly stated the virus has unfold to a number of cities, and it seems the primary case in Lebanon is linked to a traveller from Iran.

If we’ve a pandemic, it can nonetheless be essential to restrict the velocity of unfold of the virus. If nations may maintain it considerably at bay till the tip of winter, there’s a hope that hotter temperatures will scale back the time the virus can survive within the air, as we see with seasonal flu. But this might not be sure.

What’s occurring in South Korea?

On Sunday, well being officers revealed an extra leap within the variety of coronavirus circumstances with a cluster of infections linked to a hospital and to a spiritual group near the south-eastern metropolis of Daegu.

South Korea has seen the most important variety of confirmed circumstances after China. An outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan has additionally seen greater than 600 circumstances.

“The Covid-19 incident faces a grave turning point,” President Moon stated following a gathering with ministers and specialists.

“The next few days will be crucial. The government will raise the alert level to the highest level of ‘grave’ according to experts’ recommendations and drastically strengthen our response system.”

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Media captionPeople in Daegu have voiced concern over the unfold of the virus

On Sunday, South Korea reported 169 new circumstances – 95 of them linked to a Christian sect in Daegu referred to as the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. The whole variety of circumstances related to the church stands at 329, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) stated.

In a video assertion, a church spokesman expressed “deep regret” that lots of its followers and residents of South Korea had been contaminated. The spokesman added that the church had suggested about 250,000 members to minimise their outdoors contact and take precautions.

Daenam Hospital in close by Cheongdo, which treats the aged and other people with psychological well being points, has seen greater than 110 folks contaminated together with 9 medical workers.

In different developments:

  • Israel refused to permit non-Israelis to disembark from a Korean Air airplane at Ben-Gurion Airport on Saturday. It had introduced a ban on South Koreans and Japanese guests, sparking an official protest from Seoul
  • Dozens of evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have begun their two-week quarantine within the UK

What’s the broader scenario?

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has expressed concern on the variety of new circumstances with no clear hyperlink to China or different confirmed circumstances.

In a briefing to the African Union on Saturday, he stated the best concern now was nations with weaker well being methods, notably in Africa.

Dr Tedros stated the WHO was working with African governments to coach 1000’s of well being staff and to supply tools to establish and deal with contaminated folks.

“Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for Covid-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” he stated. “We are working hard to prepare countries in Africa for the potential arrival of the virus.”

Dr Tedros stated some nations, such because the Democratic Republic of Congo, have been utilizing expertise gained from testing for the Ebola virus to check for the brand new coronavirus.

“This is a great example of how investing in health systems can pay dividends for health security,” he added.