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Tech & Science South Korea city deserted after coronavirus church 'super-spreader'

16:41  20 february  2020
16:41  20 february  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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By Hyonhee Shin and Ryan Woo. SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - The streets of South Korea 's fourth-largest city were abandoned on Thursday, with residents holed up indoors after dozens of people caught the coronavirus in what the authorities described as a " super - spreading event" at a church .

The South Korean city of Daegu was facing an “unprecedented crisis” after coronavirus infections that centred on a controversial “cult” church surged to In what the Korean centre for disease control called a “ super spreader ” event, almost half of the country’s total of 82 infections have been linked to

a man standing next to a yellow building: A man wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus?walks at a subway station in Seoul © Reuters/HEO RAN A man wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus?walks at a subway station in Seoul

By Hyonhee Shin and Ryan Woo

SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - The streets of South Korea's fourth-largest city were abandoned on Thursday, with residents holed up indoors after dozens of people caught the coronavirus in what the authorities described as a "super-spreading event" at a church.

The deserted shopping malls and cinemas of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million people, became one of the most striking images outside China of an outbreak that international authorities are trying to prevent from spreading into a global pandemic.

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SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - Coronavirus fears spread to South Korea on Thursday where the mayor of the country's fourth-largest city urged residents to stay indoors after a spike in infections linked to a church congregation, while China reported a sharp drop in new cases. In the South Korean city of

South Korea reported 20 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, including 14 people involved in an outbreak traced to several church services in the central city Health authorities view the Daegu case as a “ super - spreading event”, KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyeong told briefings on Wednesday.

New research suggesting the virus was more contagious than previously thought added to the alarm. And in China, where the virus has killed more than 2,100 people, officials changed their methodology for reporting infections, creating new doubt about data they have been citing as evidence of success in fighting its spread.

For an online site for coronavirus news: https://www.reuters.com/live-events/coronavirus-6-id2921484

Reuters graphics on the new coronavirus: https://tmsnrt.rs/2GVwIyw

Deagu Mayor Kwon Young-jin told residents to stay indoors after 90 people who worshipped at the Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony showed symptoms of infection and dozens of new cases were confirmed.

The church had been attended by a 61-year-old woman who tested positive, known as "Patient 31". Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the outbreak there as a "super-spreading event".

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A South Korean 'cult' has been struck by coronavirus , with 38 members infected after a female follower refused to be tested. South Korean health officials wearing protective suit and spraying disinfectant in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city

South Korea outbreak centred on church in Daegu. South Korea has recorded 31 news cases today, taking its total to 82. Two elderly passengers on Diamond Princess die after contracting Covid-19. Some news just breaking that two elderly passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan

"We are in an unprecedented crisis," Kwon told reporters, adding that all members of the church would be tested. "We've asked them to stay at home isolated from their families."

Describing the abandoned streets, resident Kim Geun-woo, 28, told Reuters by telephone: "It's like someone dropped a bomb in the middle of the city. It looks like a zombie apocalypse."

South Korea now has 104 confirmed cases of the flu-like virus, and reported its first death.

In China, officials have been pointing to evidence that new cases were declining as proof they are succeeding in keeping the virus largely contained to Hubei Province and its capital Wuhan, where the virus initially emerged.

a group of people posing for the camera: People wearing masks as a preventive measure against the coronavirus walk at a subway station in Seoul © Reuters/HEO RAN People wearing masks as a preventive measure against the coronavirus walk at a subway station in Seoul

But revisions to their methodology have raised doubts about the data. Under the latest methodology, which excludes chest X-rays, China reported fewer than 400 new cases over the past day, less than a quarter of the number it had been finding in recent days under the previous method.

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South Korea outbreak centred on church in Daegu. South Korea has recorded 31 news cases today, taking its total to 82. Two elderly passengers on Diamond Princess die after contracting Covid-19. Some news just breaking that two elderly passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan

South Korea outbreak centred on church in Daegu. South Korea has recorded 31 news cases today, taking its total to 82. Two elderly passengers on Diamond Princess die after contracting Covid-19. Some news just breaking that two elderly passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan

Only last week, another change in Chinese methodology created an overnight spike of nearly 15,000 new cases, reversing a trend of falling numbers that Chinese officials had previously touted as evidence their disease-fighting strategy was working.

Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the virus said it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, suggesting it may spread even more easily than previously believed.

Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama Port © Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama Port

In at least in one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, suggesting symptom-free patients could spread the disease, they wrote in preliminary findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"If confirmed, this is very important," said Dr Gregory Poland, a vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study.

China has imposed severe controls in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, to halt the spread of the virus, and has taken urgent steps to keep the overall economy from crashing.

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On Thursday, its central bank cut a borrowing rate, while the authorities extended an order for businesses in Wuhan to shut down until March 11. Schools in the city, which had been due to re-open on Friday, will also stay shut.

TWO CRUISE SHIP PASSENGERS DIE

Japan reported the deaths of two elderly passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored off Yokohama. They appear to be the first people to have died from the disease from aboard the ship, the biggest cluster of infection outside mainland China with more than 620 cases.

Japan has begun allowing passengers who test negative to disembark from the ship. Hundreds departed on Wednesday and hundreds more were set to leave on Thursday.

The ship was carrying about 3,700 people when quarantined on Feb. 3, about half of them from Japan. Japanese passengers were permitted to go home once cleared to leave; other countries are flying passengers home and keeping them isolated on arrival.

a group of people looking at a phone: People buy face masks at a pharmacy as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing © Reuters/CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS People buy face masks at a pharmacy as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing

Japan, which is due to host the summer Olympics in July, had faced criticism over its strategy of quarantining people on board the ship. Its National Institute of Infections Diseases published data which it said supported its strategy, showing that the onset of symptoms from confirmed cases had peaked on Feb. 7 and tailed off to zero by Feb. 15.

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a group of people standing around a bus: Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama Port © Reuters/KIM KYUNG-HOON Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama Port

The NIID report was "very reassuring," said Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist from Kobe University Hospital who had been one of the harshest critics of the quarantine.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: People queue outside a pharmacy to buy face masks as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing © Reuters/CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS People queue outside a pharmacy to buy face masks as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Additional reporting by Linda Sieg, Chang-Ran Kim, Akiko Okamoto, Ju-min Park and Daewong Kim in Tokyo, Sangmi Cha in Seoul, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Keith Zhai and Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Vientiane; Writing by Peter Graff, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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