South Korea yesterday went on high alert following a sharp jump in coronavirus cases, and Italy and Iran took their own drastic containment steps as an outbreak that has killed nearly 2,500 people in China continued a relentless global expansion.
The WHO also warned that Africa’s poor health systems left it vulnerable to COVID-19, which spilled out of China to more than 25 countries.
Seoul is raising the nation’s alert to its “highest” level, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said after the number of infections nearly tripled over the weekend to 602.
Led by an outbreak cluster in a religious sect in Daegu, South Korea now has the most infections outside of China — apart from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.
“The next few days will be crucial,” Moon said following a government meeting on the virus. “The government will raise the alert level to the highest level according to experts’ recommendations.”
South Korea yesterday reported 169 new cases and three deaths, taking the countrywide fatality toll to five.
Photo: Reuters / China Daily
More than 300 cases have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus sect in Daegu, with about 9,300 members either quarantined or asked to stay at home, the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
More than 1,240 have reported symptoms.
The new cases also included a Samsung Electronics employee at a plant in Gumi city, leading the tech giant to suspend operations there until today.
Italy and Iran began introducing the sort of containment measures previously seen only in China.
More than 50,000 people in about a dozen northern Italian towns near of Milan were told to stay home, while shops and schools were shuttered.
The government also halted Venice’s famed carnival events, which has drawn tens of thousands of revelers to a region that is now in the heart of the outbreak.
The number of cases in the country rose to more than 100, the president of the northern Lombardy region said yesterday.
The government was weighing “extraordinary measures” to halt further infections, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.
Iran ordered the closure of schools, universities and cultural centres across 14 provinces from yesterday following eight deaths in the Islamic Republic — the most outside East Asia.
China reported another 97 deaths in its daily update, taking its total to 2,442, plus 648 new infections.
Nearly 80,000 people have been infected worldwide, the vast majority in China.
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