South Korea virus total nears 6,000

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A South Korean medical worker wearing protective gear speaks over a phone as he visits a residence of people with suspected symptoms of the Covid-19 coronavirus to take samples. PHOTO | JUNG YEON-JE | AFP

South Korea’s total number of novel coronavirus cases — the largest outside China, where the disease first emerged — approached 6,000 on Thursday as authorities reported 145 new infections.

The total stood at 5,766, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, with 35 deaths.

So far 36 countries and regions have imposed a blanket entry ban on people who have recently been in the South, according to the foreign ministry in Seoul.

Nearly 90 percent of the national total come from the southern city of Daegu — with more than 4,300 cases confirmed there — and the neighbouring North Gyeongsang province.

The outbreak in the city of 2.5 million among Shincheonji members began with a 61-year-old woman, who developed symptoms on February 10 and attended at least four services in the city.

The government proposed an extra budget of 11.7 trillion won ($9.9 billion) on Wednesday to address the epidemic’s impact and improve the country’s infectious disease prevention system.

It is part of a 30-trillion-won ($25-billion) package President Moon Jae-in announced Tuesday to address the “grave” situation brought on by the outbreak in the world’s 12th-largest economy.

Scores of events in the country — from K-pop concerts to sports seasons — have been cancelled or postponed over the contagion, with school and kindergarten breaks extended by three weeks nationwide.

The government on Thursday lengthened a nationwide daycare centre closure for a further two weeks.

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