South Korea has urged its citizens to stay indoors this weekend and warned of a “critical moment” in the coronavirus battle, while the global risk has been raised to the highest level.
The country recorded its biggest daily jump in cases and is the worst-hit by the outbreak after China.
The 594 cases in the last 24 hours have taken its tally to 2,931.
Image: China has reported a drop in new cases
“Please stay at home and refrain from going outside and minimise contact with other people,” said vice health minister Kim Kang-lip.
He urged people to also avoid public events, including religious gatherings.
As many as 476 of the new coronavirus cases were from Daegu, a city in North Gyeongsang Province in the country’s southeast, where a large religious sect at the centre of the outbreak is located.
Tests have been carried out on more than 210,000 members and 65,000 trainees of the fringe Christian group, Shincheonji Church, after a woman known as “patient 31” attended services there before testing positive for COVID-19.
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About 3,300 had shown symptoms such as fever, said the vice health minister.
Some local officials want to press charges against the church and claimed it had refused to give a full list of its members.
The group has denied the claim and has complained of “slander and oppression”.
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As South Korea battles to contain the outbreak, China – where the virus began – has reported another drop in new cases.
On Saturday it reported 427 new cases and 47 deaths over the past 24 hours. Most were confined to the city of Wuhan – the origin of the outbreak in December – and the surrounding province.
The number of patients being discharged is now far more than those being admitted and Wuhan now has more than 5,000 spare beds.
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More than 2,800 people have died from the outbreak in China, with about 79,000 infected.
But as more cases are identified outside Asia – including countries such as Nigeria, New Zealand and the Netherlands recording their first cases – the World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised the global risk level for COVID-19 to the highest possible level.
Image: Chinese state media depicts the fight against coronavirus as a heroic struggle
It means an “immediate response” – within hours – is required as soon as a COVID-19 case is suspected.
WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom warned on Friday that that it would be a “big mistake” to switch from a public health strategy of containment to mitigation – where authorities accept the coronavirus is spreading.
The United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, also urged governments to “do everything possible”.
“We know containment is possible, but the window of opportunity is narrowing,” he told reporters in New York.
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In other developments:
More than £200bn wiped off FTSE share index over virus fears
South Korea warns of “critical moment” and tells people to stay indoors this weekend
84,124 confirmed cases worldwide, with 2,867 deaths
Mexico, Iceland and Nigeria among nations to confirm first cases on Friday
Some UK tourists allowed to leave locked-down Tenerife hotel but Jet2 will not yet fly them home
California confirms second case in person who had not travelled or had contact with an infected patient
In total, the coronavirus has killed more than 2,900 and infected some 85,000 worldwide in just a few months.
Italy is by far Europe’s worst-affected country with nearly 900 cases, areas in the north of the country are on lockdown, and the prime minister has warned the outbreak could push the country into recession.
The economic repercussions have also seen a nightmare week on world stock markets.
More than £200bn was wiped from the UK’s FTSE 100 on Friday after the US Dow Jones also suffered its biggest one-day drop this week.
America has so far only reported around 60 cases of the virus.
However, officials have now confirmed a second case that’s believed to have been transmitted to someone who hadn’t travelled abroad or had close contact with an infected person.
The case in San Jose in California is an older woman who has chronic health problems.
It comes a day after another woman was taken to hospital in Sacramento after contracting the virus after no known contact.
“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission, but the extent is still not clear,” said Dr Sara Cody, director of Santa Clara County health department.
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As fears grow that the latest case may usher in an escalation in the number of US cases, the country is using a federal defence law to boost the production of gloves, masks and gowns.
President Donald Trump said on Friday that he would decide “very soon” about whether to bar people from countries with the most cases from entering the US.
COVID-19 has been fatal in 2% of reported cases, with the elderly and ill the most vulnerable, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
There is no vaccine yet for the new viral infection, which health officials think spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
Advice is for people to wash their hands with soap and water and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Source : Sky News