Seoul – South Korea reported another major increase in infections of the new coronavirus on Wednesday, with figures showing 516 new cases and four more deaths.
This brings the total cases to 5,328 and the death toll up to 32.
The majority of the cases – including 494 of the new ones – were concentrated in the south-eastern city of Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
Most of the infections are linked to followers of a Christian sect in Daegu, which has a population of around 2.5 million, and to a hospital in Cheongdo.
On Monday, the leader of the sect, Lee Man Hee, publicly apologised for the spread of the virus.
The following day President Moon Jae In said his country begun a “war” against the virus as he announced extra funds for the virus response, according to Yonhap news agency.
“The crisis in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province reached its peak and the whole country has entered a war against the infectious disease,’’ Yonhap quoted Moon as saying.
Meanwhile, coronavirus infections continued to slow in China, where authorities reported 119 new cases and 38 deaths over the past day.
The number of new infections is the lowest since Jan. 20, according to the National Health Commission.
So far, China has counted 80,270 infections including 2,981 deaths.
While the outbreak appears to be subsiding in China, authorities are now alert about potential imported cases of the virus.
Beijing and the southern Guangdong province on Tuesday required that travellers from countries with high numbers of infections, such as South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran, self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
A county in the eastern Zhejiang province this week reported eight COVID-19 cases among people who were apparently infected while working at a restaurant in Bergamo, in northern Italy, the Chinese publication Caixin reported.
In New Zealand, a second case of the new virus was confirmed on Thursday.
A woman in her 30’s, who had recently returned from northern Italy, was in self-isolation in her home with appropriate clinical support, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
The country confirmed its first case on Friday.
A woman in her 60’s who had recently returned from Iran was recovering in a hospital in Auckland.
“Although, we have our second case of COVID-19, with continued vigilance, the chance of widespread community outbreak is expected to remain low,’’ the ministry said.
Tens of thousands of people around the world have contracted the new strain of coronavirus, which began spreading in the industrial hub of Wuhan, China, in December.