Korea reported its first death from the coronavirus on Thursday and confirmed 53 new cases to bring the total number of COVID-19 patients to 104.
The first victim, a male patient in his 60s, died of pneumonia on Wednesday after being hospitalized at a hospital in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province, for more than 20 years, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“We are investigating the exact cause of his death,” it added.
Of the 53 new cases, 51 occurred in Daegu, a metropolis some 300 km southeast of Seoul, and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province. Daegu mayor, Kwon Young-jin, asked 2.5 million citizens to stay at home if possible to prevent the spread of the virus. The remaining two were reported in Seoul.
Twenty-three people among the 51 new cases in Daegu attended the same church as the 31st patient did, a 61-year-old woman who has emerged as a possible “super spreader,” by presumably infecting about 40 people. Thirteen other patients were confirmed at the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, where the first death was reported.
The government investigated 1,100 members of the Shincheonji Church where 90 members reported that they have symptoms of COVID-19 and 515 denied similar symptoms. It could not be known about 400 others whether they have symptoms due to a lack of telephone connection.
Further information needs time for the government and medical teams to verify after epidemiological investigation and screening are completed, KCDC said.
This week’s surge in the number of infected people came as the health authorities warned against the possibility of “community spread,” which means people can be infected with coronavirus as they catch a cold even without knowing why. Still, the Ministry of Health and Welfare kept the virus alert level at “orange,” the third-highest level.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the number of people checked for the virus and under quarantine reached 1,860. The nation has screened 13,098 people for COVID-19 since Jan. 3, with 11,238 testing negative and 16 discharged from hospital fully recovered. Aside from the one dead patient, 87 are receiving treatments at isolated wards.
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