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S. Korea reports 438 more cases, total at 5,766

Number of people fully recovered more than doubles to 88

By Ock Hyun-ju

Published : March 5, 2020 - 14:38

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

South Korea reported 438 new cases of the coronavirus and 3 more deaths on Thursday, bringing the nation’s total infections to 5,766 and death toll to 35, according to health authorities.

Of the new cases, 320 cases (73 percent) were confirmed in the southeastern city of Daegu at the heart of the country’s virus outbreak, and 87 cases (19 percent) in North Gyeongsang Province.

Nine new cases were reported in Gyeonggi Province and South Gyeongsang Province, respectively, four each in Seoul and South Chungcheong Province and two in Gangwon Province, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

So far, 36 people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses, have died from COVID-19, with the overall fatality rate standing at 0.6 percent.

The government is conducting an administrative investigation on the headquarters of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Gang-lip said at a briefing Thursday.

This comes amid criticism by municipalities over credibility of the list of followers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus provided by the church.

About 60 percent of confirmed cases in the country are linked to a branch of the Shincheonji religious sect in Daegu -- the country’s largest cluster of infections.

Gyeongsan, a city in North Gyeongsang Province that borders Daegu, was designated as “special management zone” as cases in the city make up 73 percent of the province's new cases, Kim said, in order to prevent community spread by detecting patients and treating them early.

Currently, Daegu and Cheongdo in North Gyeongsang Province are special management zones.

As the government has nearly finished health checks on the Shincheonji followers – some 310,000 nationwide, it shifted its testing capacity to ordinary citizens in Daegu and focus on preventing further fatalities by concentrating resources on treating “high-risk groups.”

Starting Monday, the government began to categorize confirmed patients in four groups according to their condition and transfer those with mild symptoms to designated state-run facilities for quarantine and treatment.

Some 1,800 confirmed patients in Daegu were in self-quarantine at their homes waiting to be hospitalized on Wednesday, while 584 patients with no or mild symptoms had been taken to community treatment centers.

Some 2,000 people will be sent to community treatment centers by the end of this weekend, Kim said.

The country released 47 more fully recovered coronavirus patients on Wednesday, pushing up the number of those discharged from quarantine to 88 as of Tuesday midnight.

The number of people being tested for the virus stood at 21,810. The country has tested a total of 140,775 people, with 118,965 testing negative as of Tuesday midnight.

The government is to extend the closure of day cancer centers by two more weeks until March 22. It also recommended a shutdown for social welfare facilities by March 22.

Amid coronavirus fears, some 94 countries and regions are imposing travel warnings on Korea or entry bans or toughened quarantine procedures on visitors from Korea.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)