- With coronavirus cases soaring, the government in South Korea said on Friday that it had failed to keep the virus out of the country and must now focus on containment.
- South Korea is now the country with the most coronavirus infections outside China, with a total of 433 confirmed cases.
- The government has urged the 2.5 million people in Daegu to stay in their homes and has banned some public gatherings.
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South Korea on Friday accepted that its efforts to stop the deadly coronavirus from taking hold in the country had failed and said it would switch its strategy to containment.
The nation’s prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, told attendees of a high-level meeting on the virus that “the government has so far focused on curbing infections coming from outside the country,” according to the Yonhap news agency.
“From now on, the government will further prioritize preventing the virus from spreading locally,” he said.
By Saturday, Friday, South Korea had reported 443 cases.
That’s compared to 156 early on Friday, which had been almost three times Wednesday’s figure.
Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, said in a Tuesday statement about the economic impact of the virus that “the current situation is more serious than we think.”
Like many of the countries near China, South Korea had concentrated on stopping the virus from entering the country.
The virus first infected people in the city of Wuhan, China, and has spread to at least 29 other countries. The vast majority of cases are in mainland China, which has reported more than 77,000 cases and 2,300 deaths.
The new cases in South Korea make it the country with the most infections after China, though there are more than 600 cases on a cruise ship docked in Japan.
Most of South Korea’s cases are in two clusters: in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city, and in nearby Cheongdo County.
The two areas have been declared “special care zones,” where authorities are preparing health workers and medical equipment, Yonhap reported.
South Korea’s first death from the virus was recorded in a hospital in Cheongdo County on Wednesday.
Most of the people infected in South Korea appear to have been part of a religious group, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, a branch of the controversial Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
The country’s capital, Seoul, has banned demonstrations at three of its main squares, Yonhap said. Seoul has so far recorded seven coronavirus cases.