South Korea coronavirus cases surge due to church, hospital outbreaks

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South Korea reported 142 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, almost all linked to outbreaks at a hospital in Cheongdo county and a church in Daego city, bringing the national tally to 346.

Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) also reported two cases in Busan, the first in South Korea’s second-largest city.

The Island of Jeju, a spot popular with domestic and international tourists, also recorded its first case, a single infection.

Cases from the Cheongdo hospital jumped in the latest daily figures, with the total rising from 16 to 108 overnight.

Two people have died in South Korea in the current outbreak; a woman in her fifties who was moved from Daegu to Busan for treatment and a 63-year-old man who was at the Cheongdo hospital.

KCDC designated both the city of Daegu, which has a population of 2.5 million people, and Cheongdo county, home to around 43,000 people, as “special care zones” on Friday as case numbers began to surge.

Of the national total, almost half are linked to a 61-year-old woman known as “Patient 31” who attended religious services at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.

The woman had no recent record of overseas travel, authorities said.

The coronavirus originated in China, which has reported a total of 75,567 cases to the World Health Organization (WHO) including 2,239 deaths.

It has since spread to some 26 countries and territories outside mainland China, killing 11 people, according to a Reuters tally.