1st Korean Dies of Coronavirus as Infections Snowball

      February 21, 2020 19:00

      Korea on Thursday saw its first death from coronavirus as over 50 fresh cases were confirmed overnight and another 100 on Friday alone, bringing the total to more than 200.

      Schools in Daegu, which has become a hotbed of new infections, delayed reopening after their winter break, while streets were eerily empty as authorities urged residents to refrain from going outdoors.

      The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the patient who died on Wednesday was a 65-year old man who was tested after cases were reported in the psychiatric ward of Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province. He had been confined in a secure unit.

      The total number of infections among patients and staff at the hospital rose to 16. An official at the North Gyeongsang Province government said four of the 16 were staff. That makes Daenam Hospital a major variable in government efforts to stem the spread of the virus. The hospital could well be the source of the spread in the Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province.

      An aerial view of Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province on Thursday after a temporary shutdown /Yonhap

      Cheongdo, the home of a sect known as "Shincheonji," has attracted a steady stream of followers from across the country. The country's 31st patient, who is presumed to have infected a spate of people, also visited Cheongdo early this month.

      The Daegu church of the sect became the source of over 40 new cases of infection, spreading panic throughout Korea as disciples have been found to have traveled to Gwacheon just south of Seoul, Jeonju, North Jeolla Province and even Jeju to proselytize.

      The KCDC and Daegu city officials told 1,001 churchgoers there to quarantine themselves , but 396 of them remain out of reach, and some 500 of them have complained of tell-tale symptoms.

      A usually bustling street in downtown Daegu is deserted on Thursday. /Newsis

      Infections are being reported in other regions. Now there is virtually no region free from the virus except Gangwon Province. On Jeju Island, a 22-year-old soldier tested positive after visiting his home in Daegu on furlough, becoming the first confirmed case in the military.

      The routes of several infections remain a mystery, raising fears that a so-called "super-carrier" may be roaming the country. A total of 1,860 people were tested for the virus on Thursday but the results have not yet been confirmed.

      Meanwhile, two U.S. military bases near Daegu -- Camp Walker and Camp Henry -- were temporarily closed. The U.S. military ordered soldiers and their families to refrain from traveling to the city.

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