More than 1,000 members of a church in South Korea’s fourth-largest city have flu-like symptoms, leading government officials there to ask residents to stay indoors as the number of new coronavirus cases soar.
Health workers scrambled Saturday to screen roughly 9,300 members of the church in Daegu as the country reported 229 more cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 433.
The death toll now stands at three: The latest victim was a man in his 40s who died at home and posthumously tested positive. Just 16 South Koreans have recovered so far, according to a virus tracker developed by Johns Hopkins.
Of the new infections, 200 are in Daegu which has a population of 2.5 million, and nearby areas.
Most are linked to a hospital in the southeastern county of Cheongdo and the church in Daegu, where the first case was reported on Tuesday.
The public health agency linked 62 new cases to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, The Korea Herald reported.
A woman in her 60s attended two services before testing positive. She came in contact with more than 1,100 others — at the church, a restaurant and a hospital where she was taken after a car accident, the AP reported.
Health officials put the number of church members who exhibited cough and other symptoms at 1,261.
Among them, four had traveled abroad recently, including one to China, although that trip came in early January and was not near Hubei, the province where the outbreak started.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters the outbreak had entered a serious new phase, the AP reported. The government is hoping to contain the outbreak to the region surrounding the city, which the government declared a “special management zone” and asked people to stay indoors.
A US Army garrison in Daegu restricted access and imposed self-quarantine for American troops. There were no cases of US personnel infected.
Worldwide, 29 countries have confirmed 77,917 cases, with 76,291 in mainland China. The death toll stands at 2,361, and 21,233 have recovered.
On Saturday, China reported 397 new cases and 109 deaths. Most of the new cases and all but three of the deaths were in Hubei province.