South Korea’s number of newly confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus more than doubled Saturday to a total of 433 — an eightfold jump in just four days.
“The situation is entering a new phase,” Vice Health and Welfare Minister Kim Kang-lip told reporters. But the high number of confirmed cases is also because the country’s medical industry has high diagnostic capability, according to experts.
Daegu, South Korea’s fourth-largest city, has been designated a “special management zone” along with Daenam Hospital in nearby Cheongdo County where two deaths have been reported. The central government is channeling medical support to the zone with more staff, hospital beds and equipment.
Eighty percent of the confirmed have been linked to Daenam Hospital and to a religious sect in the Daegu area. Health authorities are scrambling to test 9,300 members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus who have reportedly spent time in close contact with each other during services and gatherings in the past two weeks. Over 1,200 of them self-reported suspicious symptoms.
Authorities reported 111 total confirmed — 102 patients and 9 medical staff. The rapid pace of infection is presumably because of frequent contact in a small space, Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Jung Eun-kyeong explained at a press briefing.